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Jews Outraged as Circumcision Issue Hits Denmark

A former Jew in Denmark said that circumcision is a ritual in which 'black-clad men' mutilate a baby. Local Jews outraged.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/24/2012, 2:13 AM

Baby  on day of circumcision
Baby  on day of circumcision
Israel news photo: Flash 90

After Germany, where attempts to ban circumcision have caused an uproar, the issue is now making headlines in Denmark as well.

The anti-circumcision campaign in Denmark began already several years ago, but seems to have reached new heights, after an article published in the local Politiken newspaper described circumcision as a ritual involving ten people wearing black clothes and which abuses and tortures the baby.

The article was written by Kjeld Koplev, a Danish journalist who converted from Judaism to Christianity. He described the “black-clad men” who perform the circumcision as mutilating the baby while he cries and bleeds.

The Jewish community in Denmark issued a strong statement of protest against Koplev and against Politiken. According to Finn Schwarz, president of the Jewish Congregation of Copenhagen, Koplev’s incitement is most serious because he is a former Jew, and people tend to believe his words.

“History in Denmark has shown that the Jews always helped develop the country and its economy, and now barbaric acts are being attributed to them,” Schwarz said, adding that if Denmark ultimately bans circumcision, the Jews will have no choice but to pack their bags and leave, bringing to an end a period of 400 years in which Jews lived peacefully in Denmark.

Meanwhile, the European Jewish Press (EJP) reported on Wednesday that Danish Jewry is gearing up to contest an expected ban on circumcision, as parliament looks to debate the health risks surrounding the religious ritual.

In echoes of the decision of the court in Cologne, Germany, which ruled that the practice “causes bodily harm and should only be performed on males old enough to give consent,” Socialist MP Jorgen Arbo-Baehr of the Enhedslisten Party called on the Danish parliament to explore implementing a ban, insisting “people should decide for themselves whether or not they want to be circumcised.”

EJP reported that although there has been intermittent debate in the country over the supposed risks posed by the religious ritual, stemming from a 2003 government-commissioned report by the Children’s Ombudsman which classified circumcision as a violation of children’s rights, media accounts of bad practice and mutilation have ramped up in the aftermath of the Cologne ruling.

The report added that Danish Chief Rabbi Bent Lexner slammed talk of a ban, telling the daily Kristeligt Dagblad it would be “equivalent to saying to those that have practiced Judaism in Denmark for 400 years that they may as well leave.”

Rabbi Lexner insisted that of the 1,000 male infants he has circumcised, none of them have experienced any complications.

On Thursday, President Shimon Peres wrote a letter to his German counterpart, Joachim Gauck, asking him to ensure that Jews in German are permitted to perform circumcision.

Peres wrote that circumcision “is a Jewish custom that has been a central tenet in our nation's Jewish identity for thousands of years, and it is characteristic of the Jewish people ever since the first commandment that G-d gave to Abraham our Forefather.”

Minister of Interior and Shas party head, Eli Yishai, has sent a letter to the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, requesting that she personally intervene to prevent legal action against Jews trying to keep the Biblical commandment of circumcision in Germany.

Earlier this week, a lawsuit was filed against a German rabbi for performing circumcision.