Meeting Council of Europe Sec. Gen. Jagland Re: Circumcision

January 29, 2014

EnglishEU_Council_FlagForthcoming March 27th I will be one of the speakers at a joint event between the European Council of Religious Leaders – Religions for Peace and the Council of Europe’s Brussel’s office. It will be an opportunity to explore the mounting pressures attempting to limit freedom of religion and tolerance for others in Europe. The title of my lecture is provocatively entitled: “Religious practices and expressions: contradicting human rights?”

This will be another step in our interfaith effort to mitigate and counter the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s resolution Resolution 1952 (2013), which encouraged legally constraining religious circumcision. Some previous steps undertaken in this matter were described in a previous blog post.On January 20th 2014, I took part in a Jewish-Muslim interfaith mission by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, meeting with Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, where he reitterated his strong support for religious freedom and cultural tolerance. This came a week ahead of a renewed discussion concerning ritual male infant circumcision at the Council of Europe.

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Unfortunately, a the discussion regarding ritual circumcision a mere week after our interfaith meeting with Secretary General Jagland, we could see first hand how some activists won’t stop at anything and will try to claim a moral high ground upon which they can build their castles of intolerance, cloaking their intransigence in arguments supposedly about the rights of the child, while totally ignoring the same children’s rights to be part of a community, for instance a religious community, and to receive their parents’ culture and deeply held values. There remains much work to be done.

Most upsetting was that all Germans who were present and spoke at the January 28th discussion all opposed ritual circumcision. It seems like after losing in the German Bundestag when the latter body passed a law protecting ritual circumcision, they ran to the Council of Europe to sell their intolerant wares. Read the rest of this entry »

Should we Circumcise the Children of Non-Members?

November 11, 2013

English255px-Nimrod_ST_07Sridim, the scholarly journal of the Conference of European Rabbis, just published my article on the question, whether Jewish Communities may abstain from helping non-members circumcise their sons.

Jewish communities provide many services and play a crucial role in furthering Jewish identity and adherence. All those programs and activities cost money, however. Different countries use different models to raise funds. In some European countries, first and foremost in Germany, funds are raised through a system of registration with and taxation by the state in favor of the designated faith community. Thus, Jews (and Catholics, Protestants and Muslims, etc.) in Germany are expected to register as Jews (or as belonging in their respective faith community) with the government, which will then proceed to add 8 or 9% on top of income taxes and pass that addition on to the designated community. The act of not joining or leaving the community, often for financial reasons, hurts the community and forces its remaining members to unfairly bear the burden of services. May such a community, in addition to denying non members reduced or free entry to concerts, lectures and sundry other events, also deny basic Jewish services, like the circumcision of newborn boys of non-members?

Read the rest of this entry »