German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday that her government was hard at work trying to find a quick solution to the circumcision controversy raging in her country.
Last week, a criminal complaint was filed against a German rabbi for performing several hundred circumcisions. The charge came in the wake of a recent court decision which held that the rite, if performed for non-medical reasons, could be considered illegal.
“The chancellor considers the safeguarding of the Jewish religion and culture as a special obligation,” an official in Merkel’s office wrote in a letter to Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the CEO of the European Jewish Association, which has been active in trying to overturn the court ruling. “The chancellor is very grateful that Jewish life has again found a place in Germany. Therefore the federal government takes this problem very seriously and is working intently on finding a swift solution for religiously motivated circumcisions. There shall be no doubt that the freedom of religion is a solid part of our democratic society.”
The European Jewish Association was one of many Jewish advocacy groups that protested the complaint filed against Rabbi David Goldberg, the rabbi of the Bavarian town of Hof, and demanded the federal government in Berlin pass a law creating legal clarity for ritual circumcisors.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai and President Shimon Peres wrote to Merkel and German President Joachim Gauck, respectively, calling on German authorities to ensure that Jews can practice their rites in the country without fear of prosecution.
The court decision that prompted the complaint against Goldberg caused a major uproar in Germany’s Jewish and Muslim communities, leading the Bundestag to pass a resolution underlining the right to ritual circumcision. “A medically professional circumcision of boys, which does not cause unnecessary pain,” should be “generally permissible,” the resolution read. All parties but the far-left Die Linke voted in favor of the resolution.
Already on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle made a statement similar to Merkel’s, saying that Berlin must “ensure the possibility to keep Jewish and Muslim traditions without legal non-certainty” and that a clear agreement on the matter should be reached quickly.