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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Dr. Ulrich Fegeler, a spokesman for the German Pediatric Association, nevertheless warned: “What this rabbi is accused of doing is neither hygienic nor in accordance with acceptable medical practice. If this controversial procedure continues, it will be taken to the courts for legal action.”

With the charges now filed against him, Teichtal said that “the important thing for us as a community is to stand together.”

That, however, is precisely the opposite of what has happened since the controversy broke out. While Gideon Joffe, president of Berlin’s Jewish community, has voiced support for Teichtal and for the Jewish community’s “right to practice the traditions they’ve inherited from their ancestors,” Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, stressed his organization’s opposition to MBP.

The Central Council is currently in the process of drawing up guidelines for the certification of mohels in Germany, Graumann told the Jüdische Allgemeine, Germany’s main Jewish newspaper. And in compliance with Germany’s circumcision law, mohels who perform MBP will be denied a certificate, he vowed.

The split paralleled the discord among Orthodox rabbinical groups weighing in on the controversy in Germany and elsewhere.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Moscow-based president of the Conference of European Rabbis, which is the primary Orthodox rabbinical assembly in Europe since World War II, told the newspaper Berliner Zeitung in early April, that, for hygienic reasons, he recommended use of a glass pipette for suctioning blood during circumcision. He criticized “closed ultra-Orthodox communities” that “flout community rules.”

“While we respect Rabbi Teichtal’s right to practice his tradition,” Goldschmidt said, referring to MBP, “we doubt it was wise to do so as a public community rabbi.”

In a separate interview with the news agency JTA, Goldschmidt hinted at his underlying concern. He said that he wanted to be “supportive of [Teichtal] without endangering the whole issue of brit milah.”

Meanwhile, the Rabbinical Center of Europe, a Brussels-based organization founded by Chabad to rival the Conference of European Rabbis, has strongly backed Teichtal. In an April 18 editorial in the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, the center’s general director, Menachem Margolin, criticized Goldschmidt and others for “aligning themselves with those who are working against Jewish interests.” He said that such misguided efforts could lead to governments once again “accusing Europe’s Jews of inhuman and uncultured practices.”

In an interview with the Forward, Margolin cited a long list of commentary and rabbinical debates regarding MBP. “There are many things in each generation that Jewish leaders are trying to change and improve,” he said, but warned, “this is not an issue that should be discussed in a non-Jewish paper. It’s something to be discussed by rabbis.”


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