Swiss hospital rescinds circumcision ban

Swiss hospital rescinds circumcision ban

Zurich Children's Hospital to allow Jewish and Muslim rite on a case by case basis

Getting ready to perform a circumcision. (illustrative photo: CC-BY Ran Yaniv Hartstein, Flickr)
Getting ready to perform a circumcision. (illustrative photo: CC-BY Ran Yaniv Hartstein, Flickr)

JTA – A Swiss hospital which briefly banned circumcision announced that it would now allow the procedure.

An announcement by University Children’s Hospital Zurich said on Friday that a three-week moratorium, now ended, was needed to assess the practice’s legal implications.

The hospital’s board “decided future circumcisions would be examined on a case by case basis, subject to consideration for children’s welfare.” If deemed permissible, both parents would have to give their written consent to the procedure.

The president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, Dr. Herbert Winter, told JTA he was “satisfied” with the lifting of a ban on circumcision. “It is positive that the hospital has also realized that circumcision does not conflict with Swiss law or jurisprudence — as the Jewish community has often maintained.” Winter also said that the Jewish  values are in line with the hospital’s care for children’s welfare.

According to Winter, University Children’s Hospital Zurich is the only institution in the country that had announced a ban on the ritual.

Jewish circumcisions are usually performed by mohalim, or ritual circumcisors, and “only very exceptionally do they occur in hospitals,” he added.

The hospital’s initial ban followed a ruling in June by a court in Cologne, Germany, which said that circumcision was tantamount to grievous bodily harm.

The governor of Vorarlberg province in Austria also has ordered state-run hospitals to stop circumcisions except for health reasons “until the legal situation is clarified.”

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said he wished to congratulate the Swiss Jewish community on the lifting of the ban.

“We are facing two parallel campaigns: To ban circumcision and to ban shechitah,” he told JTA, referring to the procedure for kosher slaughtering of animals. “Both sometimes display certain anti-Semitic overtones. Keeping shechitah permissible is crucially important. However, circumcision is existential; without it there can be no Jewish community.”

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