BERLIN (AFP/EJP)---German Jews rejected Berlin’s landmark decision to preserve medical circumcisions in the capital Wednesday, as the secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Stephan Kramer said the “practical interim solution doesn’t help us”.
Berlin’s judiciary moved to safeguard “freedom to practise religious” by legislating religious circumcisions could continue in the city, if performed by medical doctors with the written consent of both parents after having been informed of the inherent medical risks of the procedure.
The ruling effectively outlawed the common practice of religious circumcisions by mohels (religious-trained circumcisers) in Judaism, which prescribes all Jewish boys must be circumcised on the eighth day after birth. Responding to the announcement, Kramer added: “I’m wondering where the improvement is for us”.
Berlin is the first of 16 German federal states to have reached a conclusive decision on the divisive issue, which has proved a public relations disaster for Angela Merkel’s German administration, after Muslims and Jews in Germany and globally were in uproar over a Cologne court decision which ruled that any medical doctor could be prosecuted for performing circumcisions, which it claimed posed a risk to the health of the baby.
Kristof Graf, medical director of the Jewish Hospital in Berlin, one of the first facilities to have banned the procedure following the controversial ruling in June, responded to the Berlin legislation by saying he was “satisfied with the solution”.
Although not legally binding in other federal states, the Cologne judgement set a precedent, by which doctors across the country feared prosecution on failure to comply. According Berlin’s leading justice official Thomas Heilmann, this latest decision came in direct response to this confusion and was designed as an interim measure to preserve Muslim and Jewish life in the capital until the German parliament reached a more permanent solution.
His vocal commitment to the continuity of religious life is unlikely to convince many disillusioned sectors of the German Jewish community as the former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, declared: “We love this country. But it is about time that we receive confirmation for the trust that we dare to have in it."
Meanwhile, prosecutors in the southwestern German cities of Stuttgart and Karlsruhe have declared they won’t rule on the issue until federal legislation is passed. A parliamentary ethics committee last month issued recommendations largely in line with the Berlin judgement.
Last month Chancellor Merkel responded to an appeal for clarification on the issue by Brussels-based European Jewish Association (EJA) Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin to say the “German government is fully committed to the nurturing of the Jewish religion and culture”
“I'm thankful that the Jewish people have once again, found a home in Germany. Therefore, the German administration is devoting its full attention to this matter and works intensively in order to achieve an appropriate and fast solution to circumcision ban. Freedom of religion is an essential component in our democratic society and there should be no doubt about it,” she added.
About four million Muslims and more than 200,000 Jews live in Germany.