There was a head-spinning moment in Germany last week: News emerged that a rabbi
had been criminally charged for performing his religious duties. Rabbi David
Goldberg of northern Bavaria, who shepherds a 400-member community, is the first
person to run afoul of a ruling by a Cologne judge earlier this year that
criminalized circumcision, a basic religious rite.
There is some
precedent outside of Germany for such a ruling. In 2001, a Swedish law sparked a
protest from Jews and Muslims by requiring that a medical doctor or anesthesia
nurse accompany registered circumcisers, and that anesthesia be applied before
the procedure. The law is still in effect.
In 2006, a Finnish court
charged a Muslim mother with assault for circumcising her baby, and this was
followed by a Jewish couple being fined for causing bodily harm to their
The Muslim mother ultimately wasn’t punished, and in 2006 the
Finnish Supreme Court said her actions weren’t criminal and religious
circumcision is not a crime.
In the United States, a San Francisco ballot
initiative tried last year to make circumcision an offense punishable by a
$1,000 fine and up to a year in prison; it failed to get enough votes. (In
Germany, the Cologne judge seems not to have not yet specified punishment for
violations.) The ban by the court in Cologne, however, is the most troubling.
For decades Germany has been an example of how a nation can take responsibility
for its previous crimes. It is very moving to see Germany’s Holocaust memorial
in Berlin, just two blocks from the country’s parliament.
circumcision ban deserves universal scorn.
The American and European
rabbinates should lead a delegation of mohelim (ritual circumcisers) to Germany
to seek arrest for civil disobedience in protest against government persecution.
I would join them and call upon Islamic imams to stand with us.
German government really want to get into a public battle over whether they are
better guardians of the health and welfare of Jewish (and Muslim) children than
their parents? The Los Angeles Times recently cited a study predicting that as
the number of circumcisions goes down in the US, the cost of health care will
steadily climb. Eryn Brown reported that “If circumcision rates were to fall to
10%... lifetime health costs for all the babies born in a year would go up by
$505 million. That works out to $313 in added costs for every circumcision that
Why? Because circumcision has been proven to be the
second most effective means – after condoms – of stopping the transmission of
HIVAIDS, with the British Medical Journal reporting that circumcised men are
eight times less likely to contract the infection.
The New York Times
echoed these findings in an August 27 report that projected “declining US
circumcision rates could add more than $4 billion in health care costs in coming
years because of increased illness and infections.”
The story focused on
the American Academy of Pediatrics updating its 13-year-old policy on
circumcision and declaring that the health benefits of circumcision – in
reducing chances of HIV infection and other STDs, urinary tract infection, and
cancer – outweigh the risks.
While the Germans decry the barbarity of
circumcision for men, they also overlook the benefit to women who are the men’s
partners. Male circumcision reduces the risk of cervical cancer – caused by the
human papillomavirus, which thrives under and on the foreskin – by at least 20%,
according to an April 2002 article in the British Medical Journal.
some attempt to equate male circumcision with female clitoridectomy, the
comparison is absurd.
Female circumcision involves removing a woman’s
ability to experience pleasure during sexual relations. It is a barbarous act of
mutilation that has no connection to its male counterpart.
always celebrated the sexual bond between husband and wife. Attempts to malign
circumcision as a method of denying a man’s sexual pleasure are
Judaism insists that sex be accompanied by exhilaration and
enjoyment as a bonding experience that leads to sustained emotional
We Jews must be doing something right in the bedroom given
the fact that, alone among the ancient peoples of the world, we are still here,
despite countless attempts to make us a historical footnote.
judge may think he is a better guarantor of Jewish well-being than Jews
themselves. No thanks.
Rabbi Boteach’s books include Kosher Jesus (Gefen,
2012) and Kosher Sex (Doubleday, 1999). He is a Republican candidate for the US
Congress from New Jersey’s ninth district. His website is
www.shmuleyforcongress.com. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.