German Jewish leadership to begin training rabbis as circumcisors

Program seen as possible solution to controversy over court ban of ritual practice; with ironic timing, German postal service announces release of stamp dedicated to circumcision of Jesus

Illustrative: Tools for a circumcision procedure. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
Illustrative: Tools for a circumcision procedure. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

BERLIN — Germany’s main Jewish body on Friday announced its intention to institutionalize the training of mohels, or ritual circumcisors.

Amid concerns among Jews and Muslims that their religious practice of circumcision may be outlawed, the Central Council of Jews in Germany is organizing meetings with Rabbi Josh Spinner of the Orthodox rabbinical seminary of Berlin and Rabbi Walter Homolka of the Reform Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, both of which train rabbis.

The intention is to “institutionalize the training of mohels in Germany as part of their rabbinical training programs,” Josef Schuster, vice president and head of religious affairs for the Council, announced Friday.

Earlier this week, a doctor from Hesse filed a criminal complaint against Rabbi David Goldberg, who serves in the community of Hof, in Upper Franconia (northern Bavaria), according to the Juedische Allgemeine weekly newspaper. The chief prosecutor of Hof confirmed that charges had been filed against the rabbi. The charges are based on the controversial decision of a Cologne district court, which ruled in June that circumcisions for religious reasons constitute illegal bodily harm to newborn babies.

Since a 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.

In a separate and bizarrely coincidental development, Germany’s postal service has announced it will release a special stamp dedicated to the brit milah of Jesus.

According to a report in the German daily Tagespiegel, the 85 cent stamp marks the 200th anniversary of the German Bible Society and features a line from the Christian Bible: “And as eight days had passed, the child was circumcised, and he was called Jesus” (Luke 2, verse 21).

Ralf Thomas Müller, chairman of the Bible Society, told the Tagesspiegel the design was done prior to the current controversy, triggered by a court ruling in Cologne last May that non-medical circumcisions of minors were criminal.

The stamp is to be presented to the public in Stuttgart on September 11.

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