German Gov't Drafts Bill Allowing Circumcision

By Don Snyder

Published September 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

BERLIN—Germany’s Ministry of Justice has presented a draft law to permit circumcisions by doctors and mohels in response to uncertainty about the procedure fueled by a Cologne court’s ban on the procedure.

The Cologne court’s June ruling, which angered many among the country’s 4 million Muslims and 100,000 Jews, held that circumcision deprives a child of the right to self -determination and inflicts “bodily harm” and “assault.” The ruling resulted from the circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim boy who was hospitalized due to medical complications following the procedure.

Though strictly local in jurisdiction, the court’s ruling generated uncertainty about circumcisions in the rest of Germany and sparked an international uproar. Coverage of the issue came from as far away as Japan. In Hof, a small town in northeastern Germany near the Czech border, a local resident lodged charges recently against a 64-year-old rabbi for performing circumcisions—though under Germany’s legal system, in which any citizen can lodge charges against another, this does not mean the government will ultimately find a prosecution is warranted.

Initial Jewish reaction to the draft law was positive. “From our point of view it is a step in the right direction,” said Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “The Federal Ministry of Justice deserves respect for presenting such a wise proposal.”

Members of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, said there were few details available, but early responses were positive. Dietmar Nietan, a Social Democratic Bundestag member, told the Forward he believed that a law on circumcision would be passed by the end of the year. Nietan said it would be Germany’s first legislation on the ritual. The Cologne court ruling took on greater importance because there was no national law on the subject.

Philip Missfelder, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party, said Wednesday that the draft law ensures the practice of the Jewish religion and children’s welfare

But Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin, voiced concern about the proposal’s prospects. ”Public opinion seems to be against circumcision and many parliamentary delegates from all parties are against it,” she wrote in a September 26 email to the Forward.

Berger added that major medical associations in Germany oppose the procedure in this highly secular nation, where many people sees numerous religious traditions as relics of the past. Opponents are likely to contend that circumcision inflicts bodily harm and that anaesthesia should be required in the procedure. The current draft of the legislative proposal stipulates only that use of anaestheisa is preferred, she said. Many Orthodox mohels oppose its use on the grounds that injecting an anaesthesia to the area of the circumcision causes an infant greater pain than the procedure itself.

The circumcision draft proposal will be reviewed by other government ministries and then be submitted to the Bundestag for debate and a vote.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • French Jews were stunned when an anti-Israel mob besieged a synagogue outside Paris. What happened next could be a historic turning point.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.