European Jewry rushes to defend rabbi charged for performing circumcision in Germany

David Goldberg says he will continue to perform religious ritual; incident ‘is reminiscent of far darker times,’ warns European Jewish Congress

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Outraged European Jewish organizations rallied in defense of a rabbi in Germany who faces charges after performing a ritual circumcision.

As the wave of support for Jerusalem-born Rabbi David Goldberg gained momentum Wednesday, the man at the heart of the incident remained defiant. Goldberg said in an interview on Army Radio that he will continue to perform the religious rite, known as a “brit mila” and traditionally performed on the eighth day after the birth of a Jewish boy. “If they call me to do a circumcision,” Goldberg said, “I will go to do it.”

Rabbi David Goldberg (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi David Goldberg (photo credit: Courtesy)

Earlier this week, the chief prosecutor in the Bavarian town of Hof confirmed that a local doctor had filed charges against Goldberg after the rabbi performed a circumcision. The charges were based on a June court decision in Cologne that ruled circumcision causes “bodily injury.”

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor expressed his concern regarding the charges and said he hoped the case would be closed quickly, and the wider issue resolved, to prevent intimidation of German Jews who wanted to practice their religion.

Moshe Kantor the president of the European Jewish Congress. (photo credit: Orel Cohen/FLASH90)
Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress. (photo credit: Orel Cohen/Flash90)

“The charges laid against a Jewish religious leader for performing a fully legal action is outrageous and a very troubling escalation, sending a deeply problematic message to the Jewish community,” Kantor said in a press release. “It has been many decades since a Jew was charged for practicing Judaism openly and is reminiscent of far darker times. We hope that in Germany, of all places, the authorities would remain far more sensitive to this issue.”

Since the June court ruling, which alarmed Jewish and Muslim communities by condemning all non-medical circumcisions, German authorities have sought ways to protect traditional religious circumcisions from legal action. The threat against circumcisions has also spread to other European countries, with officials in Switzerland, Austria, and Norway examining the legality of the procedure.

The Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) said it received an overwhelming response from business executives, Jewish and non-Jewish, who have pledged to assist in all legal fees required to defend Goldberg should the matter go to trial.

Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, deputy director of the RCE, said in a press release that “the Jews in Europe feel that this is a struggle against Judaism. On the one hand it makes them angry, and on the other it creates a great deal of sympathy and solidarity in the non-Jewish population.”

Kantor called on authorities to step in and lay to rest the dispute over circumcision in order to preserve Jewish life in Germany.

“We hope the government will immediately intercede, especially after the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed the right of Jews to continue practicing circumcision,” Kantor said. “The government needs to send a clearer message that Jewish religious life should be allowed to continue and thrive in Germany and to enact legislation without delay to clear matters, as there is obviously a lot of confusion.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a statement on Tuesday in which it said it expected Bavarian authorities to remain committed to their pledge that the government would not press charges against rabbis who practice ritual circumcision on infant boys in keeping with Jewish tradition.

Israeli Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger said Wednesday he thought German politicians would find a solution to end the circumcision ban. Metzger was in Berlin Tuesday for talks over the crisis.

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