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The Movement for Reform Judaism condemns circumcision ruling

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The Movement for Reform Judaism condemns the ruling of a court in Cologne that involuntary religious circumcision should be illegal.

This is a touchstone issue for the Jewish community, Progressive and Orthodox alike, and marks a worrying trend in attacks on important religious rituals, including also ritual slaughter for kosher meat.

Circumcision is the mark of the covenant specified in the Bible and a fundamental requirement for all male Jews. This is not therefore an outdated obscure ritual but a core precept of Judaism.

In the Progressive Jewish tradition, our registered and approved mohelim (practitioners of religious circumcisions) are all qualified registered doctors, who perform the procedure above and beyond the minimum standards in place.

Our mohelim are all aware that circumcision is contentious, and has both risks and benefits.  As doctors, however, they would not do the procedure unless it was safe for the child, Judaism itself dictating that it is a greater sin to harm the child than the transgression of not conducting the circumcision.

The large majority of Jewish babies are circumcised in the neonatal period, when the procedure seems to be safest to perform. Complications have been identified in hospital practice, but the thousands of circumcisions that are done with no complications are never measured. Denigrating circumcision for one small group of the population based on complications and problems for a different group is not appropriate.

Whilst routine circumcision is not advocated for the general population, circumcision for Jewish babies is safe, culturally of benefit (often not measured in medical studies), and is legal. The Movement for Reform Judaism supports the various medical authorities that have stated that when it is done, it must be done safely, by a competent and trained practitioner, with analgesia or anaesthesia, and under appropriate conditions.


Find out more about cicumcision and brit milah which is both the Hebrew term for circumcision and the term used for the circumcision ceremony performed when a Jewish boy is eight days old.

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