(photo credit: Reuters)
WARSAW – Several Jewish organizations launched a “proactive campaign” on
Wednesday to educate European lawmakers and the public about brit mila, or
Jewish ritual circumcision.
The groups were gathered in Brussels to begin
work on a coordinated strategy to defend circumcision in the face of increasing
calls to ban the practice in Europe. They also called for a standardization of
circumcision practices, including additional training for ritual circumcisers to
enable them to “meet the highest medical and hygiene standards.”
this month, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, an
interparliamentary institution unaffiliated with the European Union,
overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging member states to initiate a public
debate over circumcision, which it deemed a “violation of the physical integrity
The vote led to denunciations by both international Jewish
organizations and Israel’s Foreign Ministry as well as accusations by European
Jewish leaders that the PACE resolution was a manifestation of either
anti-Semitism or insanity.
Wednesday’s Brit Mila Working Group included
delegates from the European Jewish Congress, an organization representing local
communities across the continent, as well as from interest groups like the Union
of Mohelim [ritual circumcisers] in Europe, Milah UK and the Conference of
“For too long, European Jewry has been reactive to
sporadic attacks on religious practices,” EJC President Dr.
said. “However, the enemies of Jewish tradition are becoming more united and
coordinated and so we must create a unified, coordinated and long-term strategic
response to these attacks.”
Kantor referred to additional calls for
circumcision bans by political figures in Sweden and Norway and to a 2012 court
ruling in Germany outlawing the practice as additional threats which he believed
must be countered.
Germany’s Bundestag subsequently implemented
legislation to overturn the 2012 ruling.
In her report that formed the
basis for the PACE resolution, Marlene Rupprecht, the Parliamentary Assembly’s
rapporteur and a German national, bemoaned the Bundestag decision, calling
circumcision the “dark side” of Judaism. No Jewish child should be allowed to be
circumcised until the age of 14, she wrote.
The EJC’s Philip Carmel said
that given the proliferation of threats to circumcision, which he defined as a
“concerted and clearly coordinated campaign across Europe against Jewish
religious rights,” the Jewish community “cannot allow ourselves to be unprepared
for this and we need to mobilize all of our communities to be proactive and
united to defend our Jewish identity and practice in Europe.”