German Rabbi Faces Criminal Charges

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- A crucial tenet of Judaism, as described in the Bible, is under attack in Germany, with a rabbi facing a criminal lawsuit for following the biblical mandate to perform a brit milah (ritual circumcision).

Germany's chief prosecutor charged Rabbi David Goldberg with committing bodily harm, the German Jewish newspaper Judische Allgemeine, reported Tuesday.

According to media reports, a German doctor, supported by 600 signatories, filed the suit following a ruling last May by a Cologne district court judge making infant circumcision illegal.

The Jerusalem-born mohel -- a man who performs the procedure according to Jewish tradition -- serves as chief rabbi of the 400-member Jewish community in Hof Saale, Bavaria.

Since 1977, Rabbi Goldberg has circumcised more than 3,000 Jewish infants, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

In Judaism, ritual circumcision has been practiced for millenia. Based on God's commandment to Abraham described in Genesis 17:1-13, it initiates the newborn into the faith of his forefathers.

The procedure takes place when a male child is eight days old, the day when the infant's potassium level, which helps blood to clot, peaks, medical researchers later discovered.

Jerusalem Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger traveled to Germany earlier this week to investigate the situation, telling Israel Radio Wednesday that German politicians intend to resolve the issue.

At a press conference Tuesday in Berlin, Metzger told reporters Jews have been observing brit milah for four millennia.

"Whoever insists we change this ritual is asking us to change our religion," he said, warning Germany not to behave "like a communist state."

Metzger suggested establishing a school there, where men would receive medical training from doctors and religious training from rabbis before being certified by the German or Israeli rabbinate. The 10 mohels practicing in Germany were all trained in Israel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said parliament intended to pass legislation allowing Jews and Muslims to perform "ritual circumcision." Islam does not follow the biblical mandate to perform the procedure eight day after the child's birth but when the young man is 13 years old.

Several German hospitals have reportedly suspended the procedure, which Jewish families often performed in homes, synagogues or other private facilities.

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