The German parliament voted on Wednesday in favor of a law that will provide
legal protection for religious circumcision in the country.
passed with a large majority, with 434 parliamentarians of the 580-member
Bundestag (Germany’s lower house) who were present for the vote voting in favor,
100 against, and 46 abstaining.
Back in June, a regional court in the
city of Cologne ruled that circumcision was a form of bodily harm and subject to
criminal penalties, creating uncertainty as to the future legality of the
practice in Germany for Jewish and Muslim communities who conduct religious
Following the court ruling, a private individual filed a
criminal complaint in August against Rabbi David Goldberg, a mohel based in Hof
Saale, Bavaria, for performing Jewish circumcision, brit mila, although Bavarian
authorities had previously said that they would not enforce the Cologne decision
in their state.
Another complaint was filed against Rabbi Yitshak
Ehrenberg of Berlin in July for causing bodily harm while performing
Although both complaints were ultimately dismissed,
Interior Minister Eli Yishai publicly called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel
to intervene against any measures that might criminalize circumcision in the
The Cologne case involved complications surrounding the
religious circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim boy.
The World Jewish
Congress welcomed Wednesday’s vote but said that it was “saddening” that such an
acrimonious debate had erupted “in Germany, of all countries.”
efforts to ban, outlaw, define, limit or otherwise curtail circumcision were an
affront to freedom and morality, even though they were sometimes motivated by
good intentions,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder.
representatives of all major parties made it clear that the renaissance of
Jewish life in Germany can and should continue,” continued Lauder, thanking the
German government and calling for “the rights of Jews and other minorities” to
be protected around Europe.
“The bitter debate that followed the Cologne
court ruling on circumcision has irritated and unsettled many Jews around the
world, and we hope that a clear legal basis has now been put in place that will
prevent the criminalization of religious circumcision in the future.”
German bill states that circumcision is to be conducted according to established
medical standards, but adds that in the first six month after birth persons
authorized by a religious community and with adequate training may perform the
According to the European Jewish Congress, there are 105,000
registered members of the Jewish community living in Germany and approximately
the same amount of unaffiliated members.
The overwhelming majority are
Jews, or their descendants, from the former Soviet Union.
It is the
third-largest Jewish community in Europe after France and the UK.