Circumcision Controversy Endangers Fight To Keep Rite Legal in Germany

Lawsuits Cite Rabbi's Videotape of Metzitzah B'Peh


By A.J. Goldmann and Donald Snyder and Nathan Jeffay

Published May 06, 2013, issue of May 10, 2013.
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While rare, the incidence of this virus among New York City male newborns with confirmed or probable exposure to MBP — one in 4,098 — is 3.4 times greater than among newborns outside this group, according to a study published in June 2012 in the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Most mohels in the United States use a sterile pipette for suctioning the blood. But many ultra-Orthodox mohels consider direct suction of the genital area by mouth to be mandated by the Talmud as part of the religious rite. In January, New York City’s health department began requiring mohels who use MBP to obtain a signed consent form from the parents of the infant. But it remains unclear to what extent mohels using MBP are complying with the new rule.

In Germany last September, the country’s Ministry of Justice drafted a law to protect religious circumcision for Jews and Muslims after a Cologne district court ruled that this ritual deprives a child of his right to self-determination and inflicts “bodily harm” and “assault.” The proposal passed Germany’s Bundestag by an overwhelming majority in December after heated public debate, and was seen as a victory for Germany as a tolerant multiethnic society. The new law affirms the legality of religious circumcision but requires that circumcision be carried out with the highest medical standards.

Bahls, who heads an organization for victims of sexual abuse, says he filed his criminal complaint against Teichtal precisely because these standards had been violated.

In Germany, citizens may file public suits against individuals whom they believe committed crimes. The Berlin state prosecutor is still evaluating Bahls’s criminal suit.

Meanwhile, Bahls has posted an explanation of his suit on his website, in English, German, French, Hebrew and Russian.

“I’d like to make one thing very clear right up front: This lawsuit is not driven by any anti-Jewish resentments, but by the strong belief that all children bear the same inalienable rights,” Bahls’s website announces.

The anti-abuse activist also stresses that his complaint is not aimed at religious circumcision in general. “That is an issue for an internal debate among the Jewish people,” he writes. “I also disapprove of any misuse of my efforts… by people that use the issue of circumcision to fuel their discriminating thoughts against minorities.”

Instead, Bahls writes: “My aim is to shed some light on the circumstances of this particular circumcision. It clearly shows that some people are unwilling to abide [by] at least the minimum standards set forth by law, for example just obeying the rules for proper medical treatment.”

Teichtal counters that his son’s brit milah “was done according to the top medical level.”

“The mohel has over 30 years of experience and is a supervisor of mohels in Israel,” Teichtal told the Forward. While avoiding a direct answer to the question of whether MBP was performed, Teichtal said: “We spoke to [the mohel] before the bris about the medical requirements according to German law, and he assured us that the bris would meet those requirements, and he did it that way. There were even several doctors in attendance.”


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