AJC: Berlin decision on circumcision too restrictive


(JTA) — The American Jewish Committee condemned a decision by the state of Berlin that places restrictions on circumcisions.

The decision made earlier this week affirmed the legality of circumcisions but placed limitations on who could carry them out. It said that only doctors, and not mohels, could perform circumcisions. The state also required that parents be informed of the procedure’s medical risks before consenting, and that doctors do everything possible during the procedure to reduce pain and limit bleeding. Some Jews object to the use of anesthesia during the religious rite.

"We are shocked that the Berlin Justice Ministry ignored the advice of AJC and other Jewish organizations and instead chose to turn a 4,000 year-old religious ritual into a criminal offense," Deidre Berger, director of AJC Berlin, said in a statement Thursday. “It is illogical that practitioners are legally liable for a procedure recommended by the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics."

That ruling made Berlin the first of Germany’s 16 states to declare the medical practice legal following a Cologne court ruling in June that nonmedical circumcisions on children amounted to a criminal offense, according to the German news agency DPA.

AJC Berlin, in an expert statement filed Aug. 30 with Berlin authorities, warned that conditions to legalize circumcision were medically unnecessary, an undue burden on parents and a violation of their rights to religious freedom and parental choice.

June’s court ruling has led many doctors to stop performing circumcisions in order to avoid being prosecuted. Two rabbis have had complaints brought against them based on the ruling, though one complaint was dropped last week.

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