State Department Envoy and Agudah Discuss European Curbs on Bris Milah

At the invitation of Ira Forman, the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, three prominent Agudath Israel officials met with him in his office to discuss recent and ongoing efforts in several European jurisdictions to regulate or even ban ritual circumcision.

Harav Moshe Heinemann, Rav of Agudath Israel of Baltimore (and a noted mohel in his own right), Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, and Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s vice president for federal affairs and director of the organization’s Washington Office, spent more than an hour with Mr. Forman discussing the ominous and growing movement in Europe to curb bris milah.

The trend is apparent in recent anti-circumcision court rulings that have been issued in Germany, laws that have been proposed in Denmark and Norway, formal recommendations of medical societies in Sweden and Denmark, and a resolution adopted this past October by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning circumcision as detrimental to the physical integrity of children.

At his meeting with the Agudath Israel leaders, Mr. Forman expressed deep concern about the growing momentum of the anti-circumcision movement in Europe. Whatever may be the motivations of the opponents of bris milah, he noted, the practical impact of banning ritual circumcision will be that many Jews will have little choice but relocating to jurisdictions where the religious practice is permitted.

Rabbis Heinemann, Zwiebel and Cohen responded to several questions about specific aspects of bris milah, and pledged to work closely with the State Department to deliver the message that restrictions on the right to perform ritual circumcision have no place in any society that is committed to the principle of religious freedom and to the future viability of its Jewish citizens.

“It is frightening, on the one hand, to realize the extent to which the anti-circumcision movement appears to be making such substantial inroads in Europe,” commented Rabbi Zwiebel. “At the same time, it is comforting to know that our State Department recognizes the terrible dangers of these