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One of the countless paintings depicting the circumcision of Jesus

Jewish circumcision leads to charge of physical harm

(Photo: buridan)

A doctor in Germany has filed a police complaint against the chief rabbi of the city of Hof, in Bavaria, for carrying out a ritual circumcision. The doctor claimed that Rabbi David Goldberg inflicted physical harm on a boy when Goldberg performed a brit milah on him. It is now up to the prosecution whether to press charges.

The case comes just as the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, is visiting Berlin, to garner support for the continuation of Jewish circumcisions, after a court in Cologne ruled in May that circumcisions are illegal because they cause physical harm. In that case, a doctor was sued for circumcising a Muslim boy. He was acquitted on technical terms, but the case prompted the German government to commit to creating legislation to resolve the issue.

The current case is the first one in which a Jewish circumcision would be the focus in a possible legal proceeding in Germany

Metzger has suggested that doctors train people who carry out circumcisions in Germany. Metzger, one of Israel's principal rabbis, hit back at the court's suggestion that circumcision constitutes grievous bodily harm. Metzger noted that the rite has been practiced for 4,000 years, and 1,800 in Germany, calling it the "root of the Jewish soul" and a tradition "that you can never depart from."

Diplomats have said that the ruling has proved "disastrous" to Germany's international image, particularly in light of the country's Nazi past.

In July, the German parliament adopted a nonbinding cross-party resolution to protect religious circumcision. The resolution urges the government to draw up legislation that "ensures that the circumcision of boys carried out to medically professional standards and without undue pain is fundamentally permissible." The German Justice Ministry has announced that it is close to publishing a draft of a bill.

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