11 July 2012
European rabbis have held an emergency meeting in Berlin after a district court in the city of Cologne had ruled that circumcising children for religious reasons amounted to bodily harm even if parents agreed to it. Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt (pictured), chief rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), called the court’s decision “a frontal attack on Jewish life in Europe.” Goldschmidt was quoted by the ‘Bloomberg’ news agency as saying: “We’re happy that the German government understands the significance of this ruling.” The court had failed to consider how important ritual circumcision was to the Jewish faith and culture.
Andreas Michaelis, the German ambassador in Israel, had told a Knesset panel on Monday Germany, home to about 4 million Muslims and 110,000 Jews, was working to resolve the matter.
The issue of circumcision touches on key aspects of the German constitution, including religious freedom and parental rights, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheuser-Schnarrenberger said. “That’s why a precedent-setting decision by the Federal Court of Justice or the Federal Constitutional Court would be the best way forward.”
The Berlin meeting was attended by 40 rabbis from around Europe. It discussed the legal situation in Germany and strategies for addressing this issue to the general public, the CER said in a statement. “This court ruling could have huge ramifications for the Jewish community far beyond the confines of Germany, if it is allowed to stand,” Rabbi Avichai Apel, a board member of the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference of Germany, said in a statement.
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