Oslo chief rabbi: Israel shouldn't intervene in Norway circumcision debate

Norway’s Progress Party voted last week in favor of a ban on circumcision of boys under the age of 16.

Circumcision (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It is not in the Jewish community’s interest for the Israeli government to get involved after Norway’s Progress Party voted last week in favor of a ban on circumcision of boys under the age of 16, Oslo Chief Rabbi Joav Melchior said on Wednesday.
“Having had extensive conversations with the Progress Party and the government here in Norway, we are working with all involved to resolve this potentially worrying situation,” he said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post.
“As it stands, the idea of a ban was mooted at the Progress Party’s Conference, and we hope it will never progress into a fully fledged policy,” said Melchior, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the Conference of European Rabbis, with which he said the community is working closely on the issue.
“While we must not be complacent, we do not feel that there is a risk of legislation at this time,” he added.
“It was only two years ago that all political parties vowed to protect brit mila, and we urge the Progress Party not to court popularity with discriminatory policy.”
The Progress Party is a junior partner in Norway’s governing coalition.
Melchior’s statement comes after Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett calling on them to urgently establish a joint working team for representatives of both government offices and Jewish organizations in Europe, in order to prevent the spread of anti-Jewish legislation.
This call also followed a unanimous vote by the Parliament of Wallonia in Belgium’s French-speaking region last Friday to ban religious slaughter.
MK Avraham Neguise, chairman of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, told the Post that he will host a discussion on the issue later this month with European rabbis, ambassadors and Israeli government officials.
“The anti-Jewish legislation pushed forward by certain parties in Belgium and Norway does not comply with their attempt to be democratic and progressive societies,” Neguise remarked.
“True democracies respect all religions, as well as the freedom of worship of their people,” he said. “European legislators should be extra sensitive to the freedom of the Jews who live there, due to their problematic past not too long ago.”
With regard to Melchior’s statement, Neguise clarified that the discussion will pertain to all European countries, not just Norway, and emphasized that he sees “great importance in standing beside the international Jewish community and not leaving it to deal with its struggles on its own.”