Because Sometimes More is More
The other night I was skimming through the Wikipedia article on Jews in Ukraine, as it’s relevant to my personal and family histories, and I stumbled upon the following passage.
From 1919-1920, Jewish parties and Zionist organizations are driven underground as the Communist government seeks to abolish all potential opposition. The Yevsektsiya Jewish section of the Soviet Communist party is at the forefront of the anti-religious campaigns of the 1920s that lead to the closing of religious institutions, the break-up of religious communities and the further restriction of access to religious education. To that end a series of “community trials” against the Jewish religion are held. The last known such trial, on the subject of circumcision, was held in 1928 in Kharkiv.
The bolded section is sourced to a book, so I couldn’t find out more about this trial online. What this highlights however, from my point of view, is the potential apparent similarity between between good and bad intentioned actions.
—Rabbi David Wolpe
So, I haven’t yet written anything about Germany’s “circumcision ban” and it’s about fucking time.
1. I started getting emails to sign petitions against the ban when it came out. Honestly, I just stared at the screen thinking, “not only will I not sign a petition, I’m pretty sure I’d sign a petition to support the ban!” My, how things have changed.
2. The reason I’d support it is because it makes sense. Jewish parents are performing an unnecessary surgery on a baby. WTF?! Not only that, they’re cutting off part of the guy’s dick! WTF?! And it’s not a use-less part, it’s a very sensitive and enjoyable part, which I think is part of the reason it’s cut off! WTF?!
Doctors have an oath to “do no harm” and medical ethics - fuck, just Ethics in general - would argue that unnecessary surgeries performed on unwitting individuals is wrong.
3. The title of this article sums up this point quite well: German Circumcision Verdict To Delay Until Boy Can Give Consent, Jurist Says
4. Talking to a friend yesterday, he said he was surprised the Germans would do anything “anti-jewish” considering their… er.. history. I agree, but I also see how this reaction makes perfect sense: since the holocaust, germany has become quite liberal and quite concerned with human rights. So it’s not too surprising that they’d find ritual genital mutilation without consent to be a problem. In other words, unlike the stanza in Rabbi Wolpe’s poem, I don’t think they’ve forgotten the holocaust; to the contrary, I think they remember quite well and have therefore been thinking about ethics a lot more than most.
See my other post on circumcision here.
When I first saw the reblog note with your tumblr url I assumed that your commentary on the ruling would have been critical, so I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t a complete surprise, however, given that some of the more vocal and successful critics of circumcision have been Jewish. (I can count myself among them, although my Jewish identity is very secular so adopting an anti-circumcision perspective didn’t require much internal or interpersonal conflict.)
Given the considerable controversy any new anti-circumcision policy is likely to draw, it’s obvious that the historical context would magnify the controversy enormously. As such, a part of me wishes that this had happened in a different country, but at the same time I can agree with your perspective that the tragic loss of freedom suffered during the Nazi regime should serve as a reminder to protect freedom more stringently, even in such ambiguous and hotly contested cases.
During the past few days I was asked about the existence of Jewish ‘intactivists’, of which there are actually quite a few, and I decided to put together a post that lists some of the most prominent. As someone who identifies as Jewish, I find this question particularly curious as well, although I’ll admit that Judaism has never played a significant role in my personal or family life. Let’s get started.
Georganne Chapin, Intact America Blog
Can’t say that I am not surprised to see such a comment, even on Eli’s blog.
Author Lisa Braver-Moss in her interview at Beyond the Bris. Curious if if people have thoughts.
Rebecca Wald, Beyond The Bris
Rabbi Jay Heyman
Eli Ungar-Sargon from his debate with Rabbi Boteach