(photo credit: Reuters)
Jewish groups and Israeli politicians on Wednesday lashed out at German authorities after Bavarian prosecutors filed criminal charges against Rabbi David Goldberg for performing a circumcision.
The rabbi has been slapped with charges of committing bodily harm, in the first known case to arise from an anti-circumcision ruling in May.
"The charges laid against a Jewish religious leader for performing a fully legal action is outrageous and a very troubling escalation sending a deeply problematic message to the Jewish community,” European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Dr. Moshe Kantor said.
“It has been many decades since a Jew was charged for practicing Judaism openly and is reminiscent of far darker times. We hope that in Germany, of all places, the authorities would remain far more sensitive to this issue,” he added.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai wrote a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, asking her to intervene against measures forbidding circumcision.
Yishai pointed out that several European countries have acted against circumcision according to Jewish tradition.
"As Deputy Prime Minister, Interior Minister and leader of the largest religious party [in Israel], but mostly as a Jew, I turn to you to ask you to prevent this phenomenon from continuing," the Shas chairman wrote.
The interior minister asked Merkel to "bring back the ability to proudly live a fully Jewish lifestyle in your country."
"Circumcision is one of the most important commandments for the Jewish people, and the first giving to one of the fathers of our nation, Abraham, as a sign of his eternal covenant [with God]. Even in times of slavery and exile, Jews made sure to fulfill this commandment, and did so happily," Yishai explained, adding quotes from the Book of Genesis.
"According to the Jewish tradition, whoever prevents Jews from fulfilling the commandment of circumcision is considered breaking Abraham's covenant."
Jewish people in Germany should not have to choose between the local law and God's commandments, which protected Jews over the years, the Shas leader wrote. They should not have to choose between Judaism and their citizenship, and should be allowed to combine the two.
Circumcision is one of the pillars of Judaism, said Chairman of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee Danny Danon, in response to the German indictment.
"We must not allow the limitation of Judaism in the world, and certainly not in Germany," said Danon, who urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to stop "the disturbing trend" in Germany.
Meanwhile the Anti-Defamation League issued a call to Bavarian authorities "to remain committed to their pledge that the government will not press charges against rabbis who practice ritual circumcision on infant boys in keeping with Jewish tradition."JTA contributed to this report.