Chabad Rabbi Probed Over Circumcision Rite

Metzitzah B'Peh Sparks Criminal Complaints in Berlin


By JTA

Published April 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Berlin’s district attorney is investigating complaints about a circumcision in the German capital involving the controversial metzizah b’peh ritual.

A spokesman for the office of the public prosecutors, Martin Steltner, told JTA that several complaints were lodged formally in the past two weeks regarding the March 3 circumcision of the infant son of Berlin Chabad Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal and his wife, Leah. The department is looking into the charges and has not yet launched a formal investigation.

In metzitzah b’peh, which is used in some haredi Orthodox circles, blood is sucked orally from the circumcision wound. The practice has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years due to the risk of transmitting viruses to the infant. Prosecutors have not said if Teichtal’s son was harmed by the procedure.

News of the probe comes months after Germany’s parliament passed a law protecting the rights of Jews and Muslims to religious circumcision.

Germany’s main Jewish newspaper, the weekly Juedische Allgemeine Wochenzeitung, reported that one of the complainants was Christian Bahls, a mathematician from the city of Rostock who heads the Mogis association for victims of sexual abuse and has a “working group on victims of circumcision.”

In an online statement, Bahls said he decided to sue after seeing a video of the circumcision. He said the new German law did not legalize the practice of metzitzah b’peh, but rather required that all circumcisions be performed according to modern medical standards.

Rabbi Teichtal was in Israel and could not be reached before the Sabbath, but the Chabad office in Berlin confirmed that the formal complaints mentioned Teichtal as well as Menachem Fleischman, a well-known mohel in Israel, and the child’s maternal grandfather, Rabbi Yochanan Gurary of Holon, Israel.

Some Orthodox communities have adopted the medically recommended use of a glass pipette for the procedure, but the protective measure allegedly was not employed in the recent ceremony.

The case arises against the background of public disapproval of the circumcision rite in Germany. In December, the Bundestag passed a new circumcision law after months of heated debate over efforts to ban the practice.

Gideon Joffe, head of Berlin’s Jewish community, issued a statement Friday defending the right to practice traditions handed down over generations.

“We were hoping that the new circumcision law would finally restore legal security and that the recent debates, which were very stressful to the Jewish community, were finally over,” Joffe said. “The Jewish Community of Berlin is a unified community, and members of every denomination should be able to live out their Judaism as they learned it from their parents and grandparents.”

The Conference of European Rabbis said in a statement on circumcision issued April 5 that in light of “recent controversies,” it “reiterates its recommendation to communities served by its members that it is halachically permissible and medically advisable to carry out metzitzah b’peh through a pipette or tube.”

New York City’s Board of Health now has parents using metzitzah b’peh sign a letter of consent noting they are aware of its dangers.


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!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • 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.
  • 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.