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Disturbing Trend': German Rabbi Faces Criminal Charges for Performing Circumcision

"It has been many decades since a Jew was charged for practicing Judaism openly and is reminiscent of far darker times."

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger briefs the media at the Federal Press Conference organization in Berlin. (Photo: AP)

Bavarian prosecutors have outraged the Jewish community after filing criminal charges against a German rabbi for performing a ritual circumcision, alleging the practice could constitute grievous bodily harm.

"The charges laid against a Jewish religious leader for performing a fully legal action is outrageous and a very troubling escalation, sending a deeply problematic message...” European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor said.

He continued: “It has been many decades since a Jew was charged for practicing Judaism openly and is reminiscent of far darker times. We hope that in Germany, of all places, the authorities would remain far more sensitive to this issue.”

The move follows a heated debate over the summer that German diplomats hoped would be quickly forgotten.

The AFP relates:

In a ruling published in June, a court in Cologne said removal of the foreskin for religious reasons amounted to grievous bodily harm and was therefore illegal, in a judgement that sparked an outcry at home and abroad.

Diplomats admit that the ruling has proved "disastrous" to Germany's international image, particularly in light of its Nazi past, following uproar from religious and political leaders in Israel as well as Muslim countries.

Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly told her party the country risked becoming a "laughing stock" over the ruling.

In July, German MPs adopted a cross-party motion calling on the government to protect religious circumcision.  [Emphasis added]

The Conference of European Rabbis is also urging the German government to speed up legislation, saying the charges "underline the urgent need" for the government to expedite the process of protecting "the fundamental rights" of minority communities.

The rabbis point out that Jews have been performing the practice for roughly 4,000 years, and that there are rarely complications.  The rabbi who was charged, David Goldberg, has performed more than 3,000 since being trained and approved in 1997.

"Whoever insists we change this ritual is asking us to change our religion," Metzger said, claiming it is like demanding "a Catholic priest [stop] celebrating Christmas."

Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon said the charges are indicative of "disturbing trend," and urged other Israeli lawmakers to speak out.

The government assures legislation protecting the rabbis will be passed "as soon as possible."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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