The German Ban on Circumcision

Echoes of Hitler reverberate.

Click here if you are unable to view this video.

See More

Comments (36)

(22) Anonymous, July 15, 2012 1:58 PM

confusion about the law

Why was a muslim boy circumsized? Could the judges not made it applicable to non-jews only? It seems to me they should not interfere with the religious practices of the Jews.

(21) Conrad T., July 9, 2012 12:53 AM

I think your take on the reason for marriage problems is correct. From my observation, I would also add that quite often one or both partners exhibit some measure of low self-esteem as well.

(20) Beverly Kurtin, July 6, 2012 2:52 AM


Good GRIEF! Has anyone bothered to READ THE DECISION? The decision prohibits DOCTORS in HOSPITALS from performing circumcision. It does not say a thing about in-hone circumcision where 99% of circumcisions are done by an expert. The law does NOT outlaw circumcision at all! This is a case where people are going off the deep end of something that was not said by the courts. Hashem said that it has to be done: He never said it had to be done in a hospital by a doctor, did he?

(19) Anonymous, July 5, 2012 7:31 AM

There are people who want to move out of that country. If you can judge someone for their place of living, what are you gonna do to help them? Its easy to talk and to judge.

(18) Rachel, July 4, 2012 10:47 PM

Sorry, Rabbi, medical facts ARE what should influence the court

A secular court in Germany has no business deciding about procedures impacting young children on any other basis than medical issues. Several European countries with large Muslim populations have banned female genital mutilation for girls under the age of 18, as well as banning travel out of the country for the purpose of having the procedure performed on an underage girl. I believe that the US states which are home to certain fundamentalist sects have bans on snake-handling, especially by children, with potential criminal prosecution of adults if a child is hurt or killed by snakebite in such a church. Countries ban many practices that may have roots in antiquity but are not in keeping with modern secular social norms. The U.S. Supreme Court originally upheld prohibition of ingestion of peyote by Native American tribes that used it in religious rituals. Prohibition law carved out an exception for sacramental wine. Polygamy is still not recognized in the U.S., although groups from western Mormons to Middle Eastern Muslims to African members of traditional tribal religions accept the practice. I don't have access to the German court opinion. I imagine it will be appealed. If the court's holding is upheld, it may then be up to the Koln-area legislature or the national parliament to fix this. In any event, I think your comparison to Nazi Germany is utterly unfair. There seems to be no indication that the Koln court is "anti-conscience", merely that they are trying to protect children from parents who would permit them to be harmed for religious reasons. The best thing that the German judiciary and/or government can do is to require that circumcisions be performed only by properly trained practitioners -- including mohels and pediatricians, not just anyone with a medical degree.

(17) David S, July 4, 2012 4:27 AM

Circumcision just a religious practice?

Interesting the court wants to ban circumcision because they consider it a violation of the "victim's" body. Meanwhile, in Africa, people there are being encouraged to use the practice to lessen the chances of contracting AIDS. Furthermore, we know that a circumcised penis carries more bacteria into the woman than does a circumcised one, thereby exposing her to greater risk of infections than if she had intercourse only with circumcised men. Lastly, we know from men who have had the procedure performed on them for medical and other reasons, that the removal of the foreskin has in no way diminished their ability to enjoy the sex act. That leaves the root reason (you should pardon the pun) to arise from religious bias.

(16) David S. Levine, July 4, 2012 2:21 AM

A Terrible Judicial Decision

Circumcision is illegal in Germany had done a terrible thing, rendered a terrible judicial decision and opinion. What he has done by judicial fiat is effectively made the basic tenet of Judaism illegal. In effect it is a live Holocaust and I write that as someone who is not at all anti-German (in terms of today's Germans) has visited Germany more than a few times and cherishes my German friends. Just as American judges take it on themselves to shred laws which keep society on an even keel this judge as torn the fabric of society by placing himself over a divine commandment. To render him beneath contempt would raise his stature. Shame on him, he has, like so many American judges, soiled his robes.

(15) kay, July 3, 2012 10:37 PM

ban on circumcision

My boy was 8 days old, and I am happy , the small cut was healed in a few days, He did not suffer, and it made a clean little boy for life.

(14) J LaLone, July 3, 2012 9:54 PM

Beyond belief when ones looks at the big picture

Anyone with medical knowledge knows there is greater risk of complications due to an uncircumcised penis than a circumcised penis. It is little different than clipping toenails or piercing for earrings. There is no conceivable was it could be compared to female circumcision, based on the anatomical struture differences. AND, it is my understanding that in some (if not all tribes) a clitorectomy is done (total removal of the clitoris). I have never heard of a man not being able to fully enjoy sex due to circumcision, though there are multiple benefits. That town should then ban vaccinations without parental consent. There is a real danger involved when you put foreign material into a body. This cannot be anything but racism/antisemitism.

(13) Salem, July 3, 2012 8:52 PM

I would like to see opinions

Hello! I have commented on this subject before and how I disagree whole heartedly with banning circumcision, but I have a thought I would like to hear other's opinion on. I have heard about the Issues the German and Austrian governments have had with Muslims comming to their contries and basically refusing to follow the laws of their countries and instead setting up communites under Sharia law. Could this be an ill-guided attempt to force the Muslims in Germany to become more German?

Alan S., July 4, 2012 9:19 AM

Do you really need additional opinions in determining that this was an activist German judge run amok?Although the specific ruling was against a Muslim family, the ruling applied to any family residing in Cologne. Please think this through. If the Germans are doing it, and Sharia law happens to coincide with the German law, why did the judge ban it? His was an "ill-guided attempt" to rule against circumcision.

Salem, July 4, 2012 6:32 PM

Thank You!

Thank you so much for replying!

Burkhart Berthold, July 4, 2012 10:25 AM

no reverbaration

Dear friends, for sure the judges were wrong but they didnt reverbarate anything with their vote - but an unability to respect religious convinctions. Concerning #13, Salem: the authorities here in Germany dont dare to force Muslim immigrants to anything. Yoursm Burkhart

Anonymous, July 4, 2012 6:33 PM

Thank You!

Thank You so much for replying to me!

(12) herb isaaacson, July 3, 2012 7:01 PM

germany is back. never forget.

(11) Kibbitzer, July 3, 2012 4:39 PM

German Jewry

Of course it's fatuous to compare today's democratic Germany with its Nazi predecessor. However I am still nonplussed at how any Jew could voluntarily choose to live there in a land soaked in so much Jewish blood. Especially as today's Jews have the option of living in Israel which was not available to Jews living in the Nazi period.

(10) Bernardo, July 3, 2012 4:09 PM

The "circumcision victims"

One should compare the fact that nobody complains from being circumcised as an 8 days born son with women who suffered genital mutilation who often do complain against that practice.

(9) Anonymous, July 3, 2012 3:47 PM

Anti-semitism exists in multiple forms

This is an issue of anti-semitism disguised as a medical issue. Down the ages European anti-semitism has been disguised in political, religious, nationalistic, socialistic and many other terms--the bottom line being that Jews could not be accepted or exercise full rights for their political, religious, nationalistic, socialistic or other proclivities which always failed to meet the requirements of whatever was a popular passion of a particular age and time. Now Germans are forbidding Jews to exercise their right to keep covenant --basically from being Jews--based on medical reasons. People can always think of ways and reasons to make Jews unacceptable. But the common dynamic that motivates these is anti-semitism. From a medical perspective, consider that I have two sons five years apart. When I had my oldest son, the Dr. urged me to circumcise him, giving me a litany of reasons why this would be medically optimal. Upon giving birth to my second son, the Dr. urged me not to circumcise, giving me a litany of reasons why not circumcising would be medically optimal. Apparently, it is possible to justify either position from a medical perspective. To many observers, it appears anti-semitism is gathering strength in Europe. It, while abhorrent, shouldn't be so surprising to see in Germany in this or any form.

(8) Allan, July 3, 2012 2:58 PM


Although my mother was of Jewish background, I was circumcised purely as a health measure as were most American boys my age (74). My older brother was not circumcised, and had to be circumcised when he was in the army because of some infection; I seriously doubt that he thanked my parents for not having him circumcised as an infant.

(7) Anonymous, July 3, 2012 2:46 PM

Fear not the u.s. will never ban circumcision

The U.S. has too much respect for freedom of religion and will never ban circumcision. The U.S. will not end circumcision thru the commerce clause either. Perhaps, one day, circumcision can be taxed out of existence by the Supreme Court.

Alan S., July 4, 2012 9:24 AM

"Circumcision can be taxed out of existence by the Supreme Court". Really? Regardless of the recent Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, and whether you think it is good or bad, you are comparing apples with spaceships. Please come back to earth.

hal, July 4, 2012 3:10 PM

response to alan s

How unfair to quote yet remove "perhaps, one day" - anything to make your point Alan? The Point is, instead of just jumping on the anti German bandwagon, look at our own country (and not just San Francisco). The "intactivist" movement has become more mainstream than people are aware. How many insurances now cover circumcision? Aren't there as many doctors who say circumcision is not a health benefit as there are that say it is? Is there a trend taking place? G-d forbid. Finally, when a conservative supreme court rubber stamps Pharaoh's 2,700 page healthcare bill that has more holes in it than swiss cheese, there is no law - always bad news for us Jews. You might like the present Pharaoh, Alan, but when a supreme court is scared to stand up for the Constitution, what happens when we get a Pharaoh you don't like?

(6) Anonymous, July 3, 2012 2:25 PM

Why is any Jew living in Europe?

First it will be Germany, then Sweden, Norway, etc... The only exception will be for Muslims (They riot, they bomb, they get violent.). It is time for all Jews to leave Europe for good. There is nothing for our people there but Anti-Semitism and hatred.

Anonymous, July 3, 2012 7:59 PM


Europe has been virulently antisemitic for 2000 years. No Jew should live in Europe. It should be obvious.

(5) Anonymous, July 2, 2012 7:18 PM

Circumcision in Hospitals

Dear Rabbi, Was it not so that baby boys of Any religion were also circumcised in hospitals in our generation? I don't know when medical circumcision became "uncommon". Is that maybe where the problem lies? Medical doctors not doing the circumcision correctly? Why doesn't someone bring this up in the courts?

(4) Anonymous, July 2, 2012 2:43 PM

It's not so simple to argue in favor of circumcision

BS"D Let's be honest: from a secular standpoint, outlawing circumcision makes perfect sense. To begin, circumcision is performed against the will of the "victim." Such a "mutilation" ought to be done only by the indiviual himself at an age of majority. As far as science goes, my quick web-based research shows that there are enough doctors out there who will vouch for the benefits of non-circumcision such that there is no way to win a debate on scientific or medical grounds. As for religious freedom, such an argument will (and probably ought to) fall on deaf ears; after all, at some point society must step in to protect victims of abuse perpetrated in the name of religion. Moslem honor killings and female circumcision come to mind as examples of so-called religious practices that even the most hardline ultra-Orthodox Jew would have to admit ought to be outlawed in polite society. I think that in speaking about this issue with a person who is not Torah-observant, an Orthodox Jew must humbly admit the above reality. But Rabbi Salomon made an important point along the way: everything that a parent does has an impact on the wellbeing of a child. If San Fran or Germany or any other place wants to protect its children by outlawing circumcision, such locales -- in the interest of logical consistency and moral integrity -- will have to ban hosts of other behaviors and actions. Heck, maybe they should ban the long pants and long sleeves that my son wears in the middle of the hot summer! Don't give them any ideas! As with all policy issues, it always comes down to where to draw the lines. If the debate can be framed this way, then maybe we have a chance to win the policy argument. Of course, our best bet is to daven to Hashem that He causes society to draw its lines in consonance with the lines that Hashem draws in His holy Torah.

Stewart Maidenbaum, July 3, 2012 6:32 PM

the place where this law is being considered

Anonymous # 4: You can't see the forest for the trees. Cologne is part of Germany. There is a history behind this law. The Germans followed a madman, once, history repeats its self !

Dina, July 3, 2012 6:59 PM

against the will of the victim

Does this mean you are against abortion, Anonymous? Abortions are performed against the will of the victim.

Anonymous, July 4, 2012 9:37 AM

Anonymous #4 is well aware that the Jewish people perform circumcision as a matter of religion. However, this specific issue is not a question of how a secular person or court 'sees' this or any issue. This is strictly a matter of religious freedom being permitted in a particular country, be it Germany or the USA. By the way, "killing" a person is not the equivalent to male circumcising a male for religious reasons. In addition, I do not believe that "female mutilations" are religiously prescribed. These are not 'germane' to the topic at hand.

(3) Lars Barnaby, July 1, 2012 3:45 PM

Really, Menachem

Why are Jews in Germany! They should have left 70 years ago never to return!

Sidney, July 1, 2012 9:56 PM

They are not really German Jews

Most German Jews got out 1935-1941 as things went from bad to worse, including both sets of my grandparents and all their three children (my father, my uncle and my mother). Most of the rest did not survive the War and those who did almost all left Germany also. These are the real German Jews (known colloquially in Yiddish as "Yekkes" and they called themselves "Benei Aschkenaz" (not to be confused with the larger Ashkenazic population). I who was born in the USA identify myself as an Orthodox Yekke not so much ethnically but that I pray in a Synagogue that follows the time hallowed tradition of Western Europe going back to Tosafists. The current Jews in Germany largely came from behind the former Iron Curtain and are only now discovering their true Jewish roots. To them Germany is just like any other place in the Diaspora and we have no right to judge them.

Breely, July 3, 2012 2:47 PM

Unfortunately I think most Jews did NOT get out in time. I sometimes attend a yearly meeting with Kindertransport survivors - children sent to safety, most to never see their family again. Their stories are harrowing. My own mother in law had to hide in the countryside of Innsbruck, kicked out of college in her last year because she was half-jew, hunted by the Nazis. I think more people died than escaped. ....Anti-Jews hatred is on the rise, Please G-d give them time to move to Israel before it gets worse.

Sidney, July 5, 2012 2:58 AM

See the Statistics!

From the United States Holocaust Museum "In January 1933, some 522,000 Jews by religious definition lived in Germany. Over half of these individuals, approximately 304,000 Jews, emigrated during the first six years of the Nazi dictatorship, leaving only approximately 214,000 Jews in Germany proper (1937 borders) on the eve of World War II. " Thus most were already out by 9/1/1939. Plus until the USA entered the War in December 1941 more got out including my paternal grandparents (after my father in 1938 and his brother in 1939) in late November 1941.

David, July 3, 2012 6:22 PM

Sidney: Not judging, just noting a reality

My Dad left Germany days before WW2, via visa to Yeshiva in England. His father, decorated in WWI was not granted a visa to anywhere from 1937 resulting in the deaths of both of my grandparents and one aunt. I went to Germany as an invited conference speaker, only because I could visit a German family in my father's home town who courageously denounced Nazis before the war and saved my aunt i when she stumbled back from a Russian liberated CC. Absolutely great and too rare Germans who still support Israel, maintain the local semetary and continue an close relationship wirh my aunt. At the conference, I visited the local "hidden" shul where attendees passed through a fortified check-point to show official ID. Two police cars parked on the street. Folks would almost walk by, glance behind them and duck into the path leading to the entrance check-point. As Sidney noted, many were Eastern European and when asked why the continued to live in this place, they openly admitted that it was for financial reasons. Entirely cognizant of the anti-semitic atmosphere, they were willing to tolerate it and bring their children up in a stilted environment for Jews despite the caustic if not cancerous surroundings. I don't judge them, having not stood in their place as Ethcis of the Fathers reminds us.. The best I can do is warn them that Europe as a whole is capitulating to the joint anti-semitic forces of Islamofascist Jew hatred and historic, endemic European anti-semistism that feed off each other. Classicial Western civilization and society (including Christianity) are being attacked from extermists of both the left and the right and Europe is not the place where we can survive as a people or as individuals. Political Correctness, originating in and most strongly "enforced" in Europe (but spreading globally) hampers any push back wrt Islamofascism or leftist extremism. Europe at this time is simply hazardous to the physical, mental and spitritual health of Jews.

(2) Anonymous, July 1, 2012 3:23 PM


In Germany, the law states that there is protection for religious practices. Cologne court ruling would mean that the government would have to either go through a formal court process to overturn the Cologne ruling or, perhaps easier, they would have to pass specific legislation. I am confident they will do one of the two. The close-minded ruling by the Cologne court is an embarrassment, to say the least. It is hard to believe that intelligent people cannot see the consequences of such rulings. It is hard to believe that they cannot see that such a ruling takes away the individual freedom because the State is making that choice instead of the parents making the choice. And, the court's basis is scientific evidence (drop in the bucket in terms of time) vs thousands of years of precedent. No need to go into religious freedoms that the court overturned. You are right Rabbi. It is like saying, "We forbid you to teach you child about religion until he or she is of age to decide." Such non-decisions decide in favor of atheism. There is a reason for protection of religious freedom and I look forward to the German government overturning this close-minding ruling.

(1) Alan S., July 1, 2012 2:53 PM

I wish I could say that it's the Germans being German, but unfortunately, I cannot, because it is happening right here in the old US of A, in San Francisco. It is, of course, an issue of religious freedom, but it is also an issue of people not minding their own business.


Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment

Receive Weekly Current Issues Emails

Sign up to our Current Issues Jewsletter.

Our privacy policy