Jewish groups spoke out harshly this week against a resolution passed on Tuesday
by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe calling male ritual
circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children.”
resolution urged European Union member states to “initiate a public debate,
including intercultural and interreligious dialogue, aimed at reaching a large
consensus on the rights of children to protection against violations of their
physical integrity according to human rights standards.”
proposed that governments should “adopt specific legal provisions to ensure that
certain operations and practices will not be carried out before a child is old
enough to be consulted.”
The Jewish ritual of brit mila was included in a
long list of practices covered by the resolution, which also included female
genital mutilation, early childhood medical interventions in the case of
intersexual children, corporal punishment, and the submission to or coercion of
children into piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery.
“This is a sign of
anti-Semitism, in my opinion,” Benjamin Albalas, President of the Central Board
of Jewish Communities in Greece, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
suggestion to ban circumcision “sends out a terrible message to European Jews
that our practices, and therefore our very presence on this continent, is
treated with disdain,” European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor
A large majority of delegates voted to remove a reference to the
“religious rights of parents and families” from the measure.
Milah UK, an organization aimed at promoting ritual circumcision among British
Jews, said that while “the adoption of this report is non-binding and does not
represent any direct threat to mila,” the readiness of the Parliamentary
Assembly to dismiss arguments in favor of religious freedom is
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, of the Brussels-based European Jewish
Association, said that aside from issues of religious freedom, the science
behind the motion may also be faulty.
“The writers of this report have
made a partial examination, and did not take into consideration the opinions of
most experts, including from the World Health Organization, about the positive
health aspects of circumcision,” Margolin told The Jerusalem Post.
are particularly concerned at the domino effect this will have, in light of
previous decisions across Europe, including attempts to ban kosher ritual
slaughter, as an attack on the very essence of Jewish life in Europe,” an
Israeli Jewish Congress spokesman told the Post.
Steven Kramer, leader of
the Zentralrat Der Juden, an umbrella group representing German Jewry, was even
harsher in his condemnations, telling The Jerusalem Post that the motion was
“unacceptable” and that it is “completely insane” to compare female genital
mutilation with male ritual circumcision.
Kramer, who emphasized that he
was speaking as an individual and not in his capacity as a communal
representative, recalled Germany’s recent battle to restore the legality of
circumcision after a May 2012 ruling by a Cologne court banning the
The German Jewish community held a seminar in Berlin on
Thursday for ritual circumcisers to familiarize themselves with local
Kramer asserted that German Jews “will certainly fight for
our religious freedom” again.