September 10, 2012
Berlin demonstration calls for right to ritual circumcision
Jews and Muslims in Berlin demonstrated for the right to carry out ritual circumcisions, a right that has been endangered in Germany.
Under the slogan "On Knife's Edge: Religious Freedom," some 300 demonstrators rallied Saturday at Bebelplatz, the site of the 1933 Nazi book burnings, to protest the May ruling in a Cologne court that makes non-medical circumcision of minor boys a commission of the crime of bodily injury.
They also were protesting a legal solution offered by the Berlin State Ministry of Justice that would allow ritual circumcisions only by medical practitioners. Jewish and Muslim leaders have vehemently rejected the solution, as have organizations dedicated to child protection. The latter has vowed to fight the ruling to the German Supreme Court if necessary in order to protect the rights of children to remain unharmed.
According to the Berlin Morgenpost newspaper, the former head of Berlin's Jewish community, Lala Susskind, said at the demonstration over the weekend that "there must be a law securing the right to circumcision" by a mohel, or ritual circumciser. She said the Berlin ruling, which would require parents to identify their religion and request a medical practitioner, was unacceptable. In Germany, Susskind said, a Jew should not have to identify his or her religion to the authorities.
The director of the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin, Deidre Berger, issued a statement last week decrying the solution offered by the Berlin Ministry of Justice.
"It is illogical that practitioners are legally liable for a procedure recommended by the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics. A third of the world's male population is circumcised," Berger said in a statement.
"We are shocked that the Berlin Justice Ministry ignored the advice of AJC and other Jewish organizations, and instead chose to turn a 4000-year-old religious ritual into a criminal offense."