BRUSSELS/BERLIN (EJP)---The Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) has issued an official statement defending a Berlin Rabbi who was criticised for inflicting “bodily harm” on his newborn son by commissioning a religious circumcision.
Responding to media attacks on Rabbi Yehuda Teichtel, a Berlin community Rabbi, the RCE insisted that the Rabbi had sought the services of an internationally renowned Mohel (religious circumcision practitioner) certified by both the Israeli health ministry and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and that the circumcision has been performed “according to proper medical manner and in accordance with the Jewish law and German laws”.
Describing the negative attention the case had attracted as “truly saddening”, the RCE further commended Teichtel’s reputation within the Berlin Jewish community, where “he is known t stand for fairness and respect and for an open, tolerant cooperation within our society”.
“All Jewish leaders have the responsibility and obligation to stop any interference with any detail of Jewish practice,” concluded the official comment.
Berlin’s District Attorney began an investigation into Rabbi Teichtel’s son’s circumcision earlier this month, after the office of public prosecutors received several formal complaints regarding the alleged use of the controversial practice of metzitzah b’peh, used in ultra-Orthodox circles, whereby the blood is sucked orally from the circumcision wound. According to German Jewish weekly Juedische Allgemeine Wochenzeitung, one of the complainants was Christian Bahls, who heads a “working group on victims of circumcision”.
In December, the German Bundestag sought to end months of uncertainty over the continued practice of religious circumcisions by Germany’s Muslim and Jewish communities, by passing a new law to protect their rights to perform Brit Milah. The move came in response to a federal court ruling in Cologne banning the practice on non-medical circumcisions, which though not universally binding across all 16 federal German states, sparked international outrage that it could set a precedent that would have needed to be ruled on by other courts in the event of further cases being brought to their attention.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was a big supporter of the newly-adopted bill, as a means of reaching a compromise between Germany’s largely secular society and religious minorities, having previously expressed concerns the country could become a “laughing stock” should the practice of religious circumcisions be outlawed. Although the bill states circumcisions must be carried out "professionally" and "with the most effective pain relief" and in the event that parents have been forewarned of the inherent risks, it critically did not safeguard the practice of metzitzah b’peh.
Gideon Joffe, head of Berlin’s Jewish community, last weekend issued a statement defending Berlin’s “unified community” in the face of the latest negative reports and insisted that “members of every denomination should be able to live out their Judaism as they learned it from their parents and grandparents”.
The Council of the RCE held its annual meeting in Paris last Tuesday , where members signed a formal declaration agreeing that “under no circumstances may the governments of any country become involved in the mitzvah of brit milah” and that RCE leaders should lobby the topical issue with the governments of each country.
Based in Brussels, the Rabbinical Centre of Europe serves and represent over 700 Rabbis from across Europe.