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European Rabbi Group Seeks To Create Mohels Union

A European rabbinical group has created a union of mohalim, or ritual circumcisers, in an effort to standardize ritual circumcision and combat attempts to ban it.

Based on the model of Britain’s Initiation Society, the Union of Mohalim in Europe seeks to “unite approved mohalim across Europe under a single banner, ensuring that all communities can be assured of the high level of training and regulation,” according to a statement released Wednesday by the Conference of European Rabbis.

The union is registered in Austria as a nonprofit and is based in Vienna, where it is run by a committee overseen by Chanoch Ehrentreu, president of the European Beth Din, or rabbinical court. Dr. Joseph Spitzer of London is the union’s medical director.

According to the union’s president, Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister of Vienna, the new body “enables us to approve qualified European Mohelim and to promote best practice in an area where we know our opponents will seize upon any opportunity to challenge us.”

In December 2012, German lawmakers passed a law that guarantees parents the right to circumcise boys for religious reasons. The vote followed a court ruling in Cologne that defined ritual circumcision as causing “bodily harm.” The ruling led to partial bans on circumcision in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and intensified the heated debate over the issue in Scandinavian countries and beyond.

“The ongoing debates about infant circumcision in Europe mean that this additional layer of protection could not come at a more important time,” Hofmeister said.

In April, a dispute occurred between the Conference of European Rabbis and a Chabad rabbi from a rival group, the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. The Chabad rabbi, Menachem Margolin, published an op-ed criticizing the Conference of European Rabbis for its disapproval of metitzah b’peh — a controversial ritual involving oral suction of the circumcision wound.

According to the Conference of European Rabbis, the union of European mohalim will in the coming weeks compile a list of “all fully certified mohalim.” According to the statement, members will be offered opportunities to review halachic, medical and legal issues and receive full certification.

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