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German inquiry sparks internal Jewish debate on circumcision-related ritual

BERLIN (JTA) — A Chabad-affiliated rabbi criticized a rival group for its public disapproval of a circumcision-related ritual being investigated in Germany.

Some Jewish leaders "decided to align themselves with those who are working against Jewish interests," Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, wrote in an editorial Thursday in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.

The editorial by Margolin, who is affiliated with the Chabad movement, followed a statement by the Conference of European Rabbis that said the practice of metzizah b’peh — oral suction of blood from the circumcision wound — carried risk of disease.

The statement was made in connection with complaints filed by an anti-circumcision activist against Yehudah Teichtal, the Chabad rabbi in Berlin, for allegedly allowing metzizah b’peh at the brit milah of his son last month.

Margolin wrote that Jews critical of metzizah b’peh may have been acting out of hope "to restore peace to the Jewish community. This is a miscalculation to the extreme," he said, adding, "It won’t be long at all before governments will once again accuse Europe’s Jews of inhumane and uncultured practices.”

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Moscow-based president of the Conference of European Rabbis, told JTA he had wanted to be "supportive of [Teichtal] without endangering the whole issue of brit milah," and to make clear that "Orthodoxy is on the side of medicine in this issue."

Teichtal said his son’s brit met the highest medical standards. Germany’s circumcision law, passed in December, requires that medical standards be upheld.

The head of the Central Council of Jews In Germany, Dieter Graumann, issued a statement supporting the Conference of European Rabbis’ criticism of metzizah b’peh.

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