German Jews reject Berlin’s okay of doctors’ circumcisions

German Jews reject Berlin’s okay of doctors’ circumcisions

'This interim solution doesn't help us,' council head says. City's Jewish hospital says it will resume performing the rite, having stopped in June

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of ritual Jewish circumcision. (Max Yelinson/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of ritual Jewish circumcision. (Max Yelinson/Flash90)

German Jews have rejected Berlin’s decision to allow circumcisions if they are performed by doctors but not if they are undertaken by religious circumcisers, saying such provisions constitute an unacceptable interference in the Jewish community’s religious affairs.

The secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan Kramer, told reporters Thursday that he welcomed the Berlin state senate’s move as a step in the right direction but said it was not enough. “This practical interim solution doesn’t help us,” he said.

On Wednesday, Berlin — Germany’s capital and one of the country’s 16 states — authorized medical doctors to continue performing circumcisions in the state, on the condition that parents agree in writing to the procedure after having been informed about its medical risks. Religious circumcisers, or mohels, who aren’t doctors were not included in Berlin’s authorization.

“I’m wondering where the improvement is for us,” Kramer was quoted as saying.

According to a report from the South African Press Association, the Berlin Jewish community also rejected the state’s initiative. The community assembly passed a unanimous resolution saying, “This is flagrant interference in a Jewish tradition going back more than 3,000 years.”

The office of the Berlin Jewish community could not be reached for comment Thursday.

According to German news network n-tv, the medical director of Berlin’s Jewish hospital, Kristof Graf, said he was “satisfied with the solution” proposed by the city-state’s senate. Since a district court in Cologne outlawed circumcision in June, the hospital had stopped performing the rite, he said, adding that now the hospital will resume its work.

Graf said that annually 80 to 100 ritual circumcisions are performed in his hospital, most of them on Muslim boys.

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