Bris Milah in Europe

Several different strands are intertwined in trying to ties a noose around bris milah and shechitah on the Continent. They include classic anti-Semitism (which has lost its moral opprobrium), but are not limited to it. A member of Gert Wilder’s party supports a ban on shechita, even though Wilders himself is pro-Israel. The target is the Muslim community. General disdain for all religion also enters the picture. In any event, I had a rare opportunity to speak directly to the German people in an op-ed I coauthored with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, my colleague at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It appeared in today’s edition, in German, in Die Zeit, which is the German equivalent of the New York Times. I have to admit feeling some self-satisfaction in being able to cite the gemara and R. Akiva to the German public.

The last time a Jewish couple celebrating the circumcision (brit milah) of their baby boy had reason to fear a knock at the door from a government agent, Joseph Stalin and his followers controlled the Soviet Union. Thankfully, 2012 Germany is not a Cold War dictatorship but a vibrant democracy, but the recent ruling by a judge in Cologne banning circumcision and public opinion polls suggesting strong support for his position, has sent shockwaves throughout the Jewish world.

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