Circumcision debate: WJC president urges Europe to choose freedom, tolerance and respect

Sep 13, 2012, 19:14 ET from World Jewish Congress

COLOGNE, Germany and BRUSSELS, Sept. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At an ordination of four rabbis in Cologne, Germany, today, World Jewish Congress President Lauder urged the countries of Europe not to restrict religious freedom. "Don't tell us Jews how to be Jewish," he said in response to a growing number of attempts in European countries, including Germany, to restrict Jewish traditions such as circumcision or kosher slaughter. On behalf of the German government, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle pledged that a law would soon be passed to ensure that religious circumcision can remain legal in the country.

"Religious freedom and traditions are protected in Germany, and they will continue to be protected. Whoever bars circumcisions of boys in Germany bars Jewish life," Westerwelle pointed out.

In his address, Ronald S. Lauder referred to the recent ruling by Cologne's District Court which criminalized the religious circumcision of minors, even with the consent of parents: "In Europe, people are starting to question these practices. But when prejudice restricts religious practice, we have a problem. Jews are no strangers in these parts – not here in Germany, and not elsewhere in Europe! Jews have lived here for many centuries. Jews are part of this society."

The WJC president went on to say: "Jews in many European countries are being regarded as strangers, our customs and traditions are called into question. This is nothing new. It has been done in the past - first in the name of religion, and then in the name of race. Today, it is being done in the name of rights." Lauder added that the "hallmark of a free country is that it respects minorities and protects their rights. Therefore, I ask all the countries of Europe: choose freedom, choose tolerance, choose respect, and let us be Jews here!"

Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said that Jews in Germany would "not capitulate in the face of hatred and violence" and not be going anywhere. "To all those who now question Jewish life in Germany I say this: Jewish life here is safe – and must be safeguarded!"

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The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.

SOURCE World Jewish Congress