“What is deemed by our constituency as attacks on a cardinal ethic of Judaism will be construed as an assault on the Jewish people.”

Paris, 3 May 2020

In a letter to Advocate Steven Svoboda, Executive Director of Attorneys for the Rights of the Child (ARC), the Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, protested ARC’s campaign to ban “Brith Mila” Jewish circumcision and “requested Svoboda's comments on our references below.

- Reportedly, ARC, in 2019, convened the “Brussels Collaboration on Bodily Integrity,” where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was equated with Jewish “Brith Mila”: This “does not only apply to female minors, but rather non-consenting minors of any age irrespective of sex or gender... cutting any person’s genitals without their informed consent is a serious violation of their right to bodily integrity. As such, it is morally impermissible...” (note 1)

- Papers written in a vacuum show little understanding of the role of the 8th-day circumcision – from Abraham to Jesus to the present – as a three way station from birth to “Bar Mitzva” at 13 and, eventually, marriage. The above paper claims that, “many reconsider and reject the cultural traditions or religious beliefs with which they were raised.” (note 2)

- Another paper presents a perplexing contradiction: “In Judaism, only the boys are allowed to seal the divine covenant, so this is sexist on its face.” (note 3)

In his own book, A Rose by Any Other Name, Svoboda suggests that, “in the United States there is a hesitant but visible tendency, for secular and reforming Jews, to question the necessity of the rite.” (note 4)

Samuels noted that, "This could be read by some as encouraging a split in Judaism.”

- More worrying is an account that, “physician Abraham Wolbarst, had the genius to perceive that the surest way to preserve male circumcision as a religious rite within the Jewish community was to generalize it throughout the whole society as a necessary health precaution.” (note 5)

The Centre suggested that, “such a statement, surely unintended as such, is open to abuse by conspiracy theorists.”

- The letter stressed how, “in 1930s’ Nazi Germany, Jews continued ‘Brith Mila’ as an act of resilience and resistance. In 2012, a Cologne court sought to ban it. The German Jewish community, together with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, protested to Berlin their outrage at such a law in Germany, 67 years after the Holocaust. The ruling was quashed, with a new law to protect the right to religious freedom.”

- Now, ARC seems to be politicizing the issue, first at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva and, in 2019, on a Brussels platform – seat of the European Union – with the slogan “Medically Unnecessary Genital Cutting and the Rights of the Child – MOVING TOWARDS CONSENSUS.”

- Indeed, the paper of Claudia Merli suggests what appears a policy programme: 
     - “clear ethical statements from professional medical bodies;
     - social campaign geared towards education and consciousness-training;
     - moral and material support for dissenters from within practising communities.”

- The following statement raises further questions “Male circumcision is never ‘just a snip’. It is a frequently traumatic intervention: it is usually extremely painful, even in hospital settings... I suggest that readers of this commentary [use] this video, [which includes] a Jewish circumcision.” (note 6)

“Mr. Svoboda, what is deemed by our constituency as attacks on this fundamental ethic of Judaism can be construed as an assault on the Jewish people,” concluded Samuels.

NOTES:

1) Medically Unnecessary Genital Cutting and the Rights of the Child, by Claudia Merli, 2019, page 2

2) ibid., C. Merli, page 7

3) Female Genital Mutilation [FGM] and Male Circumcision: Should there be a Separate Ethical Discourse?, by Brian D. Earp, Oxford, 2014, page 2

4) A Rose by Any Other Name: Rethinking the similarities and differences between male and female genital cutting, Steven Svoboda and Robert Darby, Basic Books, 2000

5) ibid., S. Svoboda, page 285

6) ibid., B. D. Earp, Oxford, 2014, page 11