As I wrote earlier today, the issue of circumcision is making its way across Europe as chatter about a ban on circumcision begins in Denmark. The biggest shot across the bow, however, was in Germany where earlier this summer, a court in Cologne ruled circumcisions to be illegal. David P. Goldman wrote a stellar piece about it for Tablet earlier this month.
This opened the floodgates of prognostication about the fate of the religious custom for the 100,000 Jews (and, not to forget, four million Muslims) living in Germany. Despite German public opinion polls that actually favor a circumcision ban, government officials were quick to reassure rightly upset international and religious onlookers that the German government would be swift in enacting legislation in the fall to guarantee the continued legality of the religious rite.
The newest twist in the plot came today as Haaretz reported that a German doctor is suing an Israeli rabbi for performing a circumcision in the wake of the Cologne ruling. If a German doctor suing an Israeli rabbi for performing a bris sounds like the beginning of a joke, you’re right, it is one.
This is the first time that a rabbi has been sued for carrying out the ancient religious practice of brit milah. The Cologne case centered on a doctor who was sued for circumcising a Muslim boy in that city. The doctor was acquitted on technical terms. In light of the suit, the German government committed to creating legislation to resolve the issue.
Goldberg, who was born in Israel, is a certified mohel who has been performing circumcisions since 1997. He has carried out more than 3,000 circumcisions to date. In a conversation with Haaretz, Goldberg said, “I have only heard about this lawsuit from journalists. I have not yet received anything. The moment I do receive something, I will pass it on to the Central Council of Jews in Germany.”
It’s difficult to imagine that this lawsuit will go anywhere. What’s also frustrating about it is the timing. Right now, Rabbi Yona Metzger, Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, is in Berlin working on proposal that would require mohels who perform circumcisions to receive medical training with German doctors along with religious training from rabbis.
Let’s hope German officials use their heads on this one.