Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jewish Blood Is Cheap

Jewish Blood Is Cheap

The real reason the Olympic Committee refuses to commemorate the Israeli athletes murdered in Munich
By Deborah E. Lipstadt|

Members of the Israeli team at the Munich Olympic stadium Sept. 6, 1972, for the memorial ceremony honoring their countrymen who were killed by Palestinian terrorists. (AFP/Getty Images)

For the past few months there has been a concerted effort to get the International Olympic Committee to set aside one minute of silence at the opening ceremony at this year’s games to commemorate the Israeli athletes who were murdered—not killed, murdered—at the Munich games in 1972.

The games, held this year in London, are 17 days long. That’s 24,480 minutes. Despite the fact that petitioners were asking for only one of those minutes, it is now fairly evident that their efforts have failed. Before speculating on why the IOC has been so steadfast in its refusal, it is worthwhile to reflect on what precisely happened in Munich 40 years ago.

When the Olympics returned to Germany in 1972, the German government was intent that nothing about them evoke the memory of the 1936 Berlin games, held under the heavy hand of Nazi militarism. The Germans wanted these to be “the Happy Games.” Security would not be in evidence: Athletes freely climbed over the chain link fence surrounding the Olympic Village when they forgot their identification badges. Everything had to be relaxed. Germany had a new face to show the world.

That all changed on the morning of Sept. 5, when Palestinian terrorists from Fatah’s Black September organization scaled the fence around the Olympic Village. Armed with machine guns and grenades, they immediately killed two Israeli athletes and took nine others hostage. They demanded that Israel release 234 Palestinian prisoners and Germany release the two founding members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang.

When the release did not materialize by the late afternoon, the terrorists demanded a plane to take them to Egypt. German officials agreed but planned an ambush at the airport. The ambush was completely botched: A team of German police assigned to entrap the terrorists walked off the job as the terrorists were on their way to the airport. There were more terrorists than German snipers—and the snipers could not communicate with each other or with the officials in charge. Armored cars, which were ordered for backup, got caught in an hour-long traffic jam around the airport.

A gun battle erupted between the German forces and the terrorists on the tarmac, and the athletes, whom the captors had bound one to another in the helicopters that had brought them to the airport, were caught in the middle. When the terrorists realized that they could not escape, they shot the hostages and then threw a grenade into the helicopters to ensure that they were dead.

Competition at the games had continued until mid-afternoon that Tuesday. Only after a barrage of criticism did IOC President Avery Brundage suspend activities. Brundage, who served as president of American Olympic Committee in the 1930s, had been a great admirer of Hitler and, as late as 1971, had insisted that the Berlin games were one of the best ever. In 1936, when some Americans tried to organize a boycott of the games, Brundage fought the effort vigorously until he decided to use it as a fundraising tool. He assumed that Jews who were embarrassed by the threat of a boycott would give to the AOC and help decrease anti-Semitism in the United States. Brundage’s plan apparently came to naught.

At the Munich memorial service, held on Wednesday, Sept. 6, the day after the massacre, Brundage defiantly declared: “The games must go on.” His cry was met with cheers by the crowd. (Red Smith of the New York Times described it as more pep rally than memorial.) The games did go on, but the Los Angeles Times reporter Jim Murray described it as “like having a dance at Dachau.”

In the years since, the families of the victims have repeatedly told the IOC that all they want is a chance to mark the murder of athletes who had traveled to the games to do precisely what athletes do: compete at their very best. These victims deserved to be remembered by the very organization that had brought them to Munich.

Why the IOC refusal? The Olympic Committee’s official explanation is that the games are apolitical. The families were repeatedly told by long-time IOC President Juan Samaranch that the Olympic movement avoided political issues. He seemed to have forgotten that at the 1996 opening ceremony he spoke about the Bosnian war. Politics were also present at the 2002 games, which opened with a minute of silence for the victims of 9/11.

The families have also been told that a commemoration of this sort was inappropriate at the opening of such a celebratory event. However, the IOC has memorialized other athletes who died “in the line of duty.” At the 2010 winter games, for example, there was a moment of silence to commemorate an athlete who died in a training accident.

The IOC’s explanation is nothing more than a pathetic excuse. The athletes who were murdered were from Israel and were Jews—that is why they aren’t being remembered. The only conclusion one can draw is that Jewish blood is cheap, too cheap to risk upsetting a bloc of Arab nations and other countries that oppose Israel and its policies.

I have long inveighed against the tendency of some Jews to see anti-Semitism behind every action that is critical of Israel or of Jews. In recent years some Jews have been inclined to hurl accusations of anti-Semitism even when they are entirely inappropriate. By repeatedly crying out, they risk making others stop listening—especially when the cry is true.

Here the charge is absolutely accurate. This was the greatest tragedy to ever occur during the Olympic Games. Yet the IOC has made it quite clear that these victims are not worth 60 seconds. Imagine for a moment that these athletes had been from the United States, Canada, Australia, or even Germany. No one would think twice about commemorating them. But these athletes came from a country and a people who somehow deserve to be victims. Their lost lives are apparently not worth a minute.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why Do I Still Fast in Tisha B'Av?

Why Do I Still Fast in Tisha B'Av?

Ha'Aretz, By Rabbi Micah Peltz

Last year, in Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer began an opinion piece about Tisha B’Av with an apocryphal story about Napoleon Bonaparte. The legendary French leader went for a walk one summer night and heard voices lamenting in a strange language. They may have come from a grand synagogue or a miserable hovel.

Upon asking why the men inside were sitting on the floor and mourning, he was told these were Jews grieving for their destroyed temple in Jerusalem. "How long ago did this happen?" asked Bonaparte. "Eighteen-hundred years" was the answer.

"A nation that can mourn for so long the loss of its land and temple," the emperor is supposed to have said prophetically, "will return one day to their land and see it rebuilt."

This is a moving story about the power of Tisha B’Av to evoke a historical memory for the Jewish people. Pfeffer acknowledges this, and then goes on to argue that the Ninth of Av has “lost any relevance beyond the historical.”

Pfeffer’s argument has been heard before. Many have wondered, after the founding of Israel, if there really is a need for a day of fasting and mourning the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish people. This claim was strengthened after the Six Day War, when Israel captured the Jordanian-held Jerusalem and the Temple Mount itself.

It’s a good argument, and even has support in our tradition. The prophet Zechariah says that, when the Jewish people return to Israel, the four fast days of mourning will become days of a rejoicing. So why still fast?

Despite this arguably logical line of reasoning, the observance of Tisha B’Av connects the Jewish people to its history, to Israel, and to fellow Jews in a powerful way. As study after study shows the fraying of these relationships, marking Tisha B’Av can reinforce these ties.

Though the Mishna states that five tragedies occurred on Tisha B’Av, the list has grown. In addition to the sin of the spies, the destruction of the temples, the putting down of Bar Kochba’s revolt, and the plowing under of the Temple Mount by the Romans, lists of the calamities that have befallen our people on Tisha B’Av now include the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, the outbreak of World War I in 1914, and the mass liquidation of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942.

Tisha B’Av is a day, like many practices in Judaism, which has taken on additional meaning as the centuries have unfolded to this day. The Masorti movement in Israel has declared Tisha B’Av this year as a day of solidarity with the “tent protest” movement. It is imploring people to remember the lesson of sinat hinam, of senseless hatred, that led to the destruction of the second Temple.

Tisha B’Av provides a framework to address issues that are availing society today.
Tisha B’Av serves not only as a reminder of the tragedies that have befallen us, but also how we made it through as a people. The notion of peoplehood is waning today. Our personalized cultural celebrates the individual over the community, while Judaism teaches the opposite.

This is why the mourning period is canceled out for holidays, we can only pray a full service with a minyan, and most of our prayers are written in the plural. Judaism, which has always been counter-cultural, is even more so today. While on Yom Kippur we fast and atone for ourselves as individuals, on Tisha B’Av we do these things for the community.

Our diversity of opinions in Jewish life does not preclude our unity as a people. We have rarely had strength in numbers, but we have always had strength in purpose. At times it feels like we are losing that today. Tisha B’Av reminds us of the terrible consequences of not working together for the good of all of our people - a lesson both Jews in Israel and abroad could stand to remember.

As we learn in Ta’anit, the section of the Talmud about fasting, “All who mourn for Jerusalem will see her in her joy...” Napoleon was right – we have returned to our land and seen it rebuilt. But that does not mean that Tisha B’Av has lost its meaning. On the contrary, its lessons deeply resonate in the face of the challenges that confront us today in both Israel and the greater Jewish world.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The myth of Haredi moral authority

The Myth of Haredi Moral Authority

Haredi Judaism isn't our forefathers' religion, but a radical and dangerous new cult.
By Shahar Ilan

One of the main sources of power enabling Haredi Jews' extreme behavior is the Israeli public's widely held view that their way of life represents traditional Judaism, and that when it comes to Judaism, more radical means more authentic. This is among the most strongly held and unfounded myths in Israel society. And inasmuch as the Israeli public respects tradition, it is a great boon to Haredi representatives, who use it to their advantage in their political struggles, including that against drafting Haredi yeshiva students into national service.

Representatives of the Haredi United Torah Judaism Party unabashedly declare that the study of Torah is the traditional Jewish lifestyle, hoping to grant social legitimacy to those who shirk both military service and paid work. However, this claim has no foundation.

In practice, the concept of an avrech, a married yeshiva student, was more the exception than the rule in the Diaspora. It became central to the Haredi way of life only in Israel, as a result of benefits provided by the Israeli welfare state. In traditional Jewish society, the heads of households sought to work and support their families as best as they could. In Israel, a new code was created in which gainful employment was a sign of inferior social status.

The most absurd example of this new extreme form of Judaism is glatt kosher food. The word kasher in Hebrew signifies something that is permissible and of a sound nature. Haredi extremism has created a new standard whereby only glatt kosher food is kosher and permitted for consumption. The result is that regular kosher food is for all intents and purposes no longer kosher.

It's not just kashrut that been redefined. Once upon a time, women were expected to be modest. This modesty was required, among other reasons, because men and women participated in every aspect of daily life together. The only separation of the sexes was in the synagogue. This is true no longer. The traditional concept of modesty has been replaced with complete gender segregation and the covering of the entire female body. Haredi men are no longer willing to sit on the same buses or use the same sidewalks as women. Even glimpsing a woman's ankles is too much. This distorted viewpoint is presented as the pure embodiment of traditional Judaism.

If anything can be considered clear-cut in Judaism it's the issue of conversion. From the moment someone converts they're considered a true Jew, through and through. But Rabbi Avraham Sherman's rabbinical court decided to invalidate thousands of conversions. And we aren't talking about – heaven forbid – conversions conducted by Reform or Conservative rabbis, but those done under the auspices of Rabbi Haim Druckman, then the head of the state Conversion Authority and an Orthodox rabbi no less prominent than Sherman.

A large portion of the Haredi public continues to go to further extremes until it resembles nothing as much as a Taliban-like cult. This extremism has found willing supporters within the Hasidic community – which is responsible for the recent plague of gender segregation – and the Lithuanian branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism – which stands behind the recent invalidation of thousands of Jewish conversions. That our illustrious forefathers would never have envisioned these religious innovations doesn't prevent these Haredim from claiming that theirs is the truth path of Judaism – and therefore that they can't compromise.

The radical stream of Haredi Judaism is a reform movement, but its reforms aren't progressive or moderate. Rather, they are newly created bans and prohibitions. And yet Haredi Judaism seeks to present itself as the true representative of authentic Judaism, even after excommunicating and persecuting MK Rabbi Chaim Amsellem (Whole Nation), who in word and deed seeks to follow the true path of traditional Judaism.

The time has come to shatter the deceptive myth that the lifestyle of "be as extreme as possible" or "view the world through through your own extremism" is the path of Judaism. It is essential that it be made clear to the public this approach has nothing to do with the traditional Judaism of yore, but is a warped imitation of it. And to this kind of extremism, we must not surrender.

The writer is the vice president of Hiddush, For Religious Freedom and Equality.

Ex-Argentinian President to Stand Trial for AMIA Attack

By Jspace Staff  

Haverim yekarim,
We have been witnesses of the horrific terrorist attack in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 18 years ago, July 18 1994. We do not forget. People who forget are condemn to repeat their history. We do not forget our friends, teachers and students. We do not forget the foreign workers who were remodeling the building. We do not forget Sebastian, the 6 years old child who was walking holding hands with his mom on the sidewalk of the building and was "swallowed" by the impact of the bomb. We do not forget each soul, each life.
To their memory we claim for justice.

Ex-Argentinian President Carlos Menem will stand trial for a 1994 attack on a Jewish center in the South American country. The bombing at the AMIA center 18 years ago left 85 dead and hundreds more wounded, in a largely unsolved case that has typically been attributed to Hezbollah.

Now, Menem will be held accountable for accused crimes of obstructing justice, as intelligence emerged that he may have covered up evidence implicating local citizens in the attack. The 81-year-old currently serves in the country’s senate and if convicted could be expelled from government. If his colleagues impeach him, he could then be sent to prison. Suspicions that the attack was funded by Iran and carried out by Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group have long been disputed by the Islamic Republic, though Interpol did release arrest warrants for five Iranians and one Lebanese man in 2007. Those individuals have yet to be brought in on the charges.

Argentina has the largest Jewish population in South America. On July 14, 1994, a truck loaded with explosives smashed into the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, completely destroying the seven-story structure. A replacement building was built in 1999, protected by a security wall. In 2009, Menem was first accused of a cover-up of the attack, which took place during his inaugural term as president. This is the first time he will actually stand trial, following a judge’s ruling on Friday.

Israel’s ambassador to Argentina Ron Prosor praised the news, saying it showed a “reenergizing” of the AMIA bombing investigation. “In the past there was not a real motivation to check [the facts],” he said. “I see it differently today. One should give them credit for it.”

The 1994 attack came just two years after a similar bombing at Argentina’s Israeli embassy, in which a truck laden with explosives drove into the building’s front entrance. That structure too was entirely demolished, though a rebuilding program for the embassy was recently announced.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Connecting with the Past: The Maccabees' Mystery

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Is the Maccabees’ ancient mystery close to solution?

New impetus in the 150-year search for the spectacular tomb of the famed Judean rebels

Few ancient sites in the Holy Land have ignited the imagination like the lost tombs of the Maccabees, the family that led a Jewish rebel army to victory against Seleucid religious repression in the second century BCE.

Beginning more than 140 years ago, travelers, clergymen and enthusiastic scholars of varying levels of religious fervor and competence have been looking for the tomb site – described in contemporary sources as a magnificent Hellenistic monument that included pyramids and ships of carved stone and could be seen by sailors on the Mediterranean Sea, 18 miles away. The complex was one of the greatest man-made landmarks in ancient Judea.

No trace of it has ever been found.

For the early archaeologists who arrived in Ottoman Palestine with shovels, Bibles, and a thirst for the physical traces of the events described in Scripture, the tombs were a tantalizing mystery. More than a century later, so they remain.

Today, archaeologists have their eyes on a site that might — just might — provide an answer.
Maccabean Graves?

Many locals and visitors probably don’t realize there is a mystery at all. Off a road near the city of Modi’in in central Israel is a sign in English and Hebrew pointing unambiguously to the “Maccabean Graves,” and a path leads to 20 stone tombs cut deep into the rock on a nearby hillside. Prayers are held here every year on Hannukah, the holiday that celebrates the triumph of Mattathias the Priest and his five sons, who rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE and established the Hasmonean royal dynasty.

But while it is not clear precisely who was buried in these tombs, it is entirely clear that it was not the Maccabees. The graves are pagan or Christian, and were made centuries after the time of the Maccabees. First mistakenly linked to the Maccabees in the 19th century by a European explorer, the graves were later embraced by early Zionists as physical remnants of the ancient Jewish heroes they saw as role models. This is not exceptional: In modern Israel, religious sentiment, wishful thinking and a kind of cheerful disregard for the inconveniences of historical research have often led to grave sites being blithely misidentified, aggrandized and converted to Judaism.

Judah Maccabee in an 1860 woodcut. The family’s tomb complex, ancient sources say, was a striking landmark visible from the sea, 18 miles away (photo credit: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Written descriptions that survive from the time of the Maccabees make clear that this particular tomb complex did not resemble an ordinary burial cave.

“And Simon built a monument over the tomb of his father and his brothers; he made it high that it might be seen, with polished stone at the front and back,” reads the description of the tombs in the Book of Maccabees, a text written in Judea several decades after the Maccabees’ revolt. Simon was a brother of Judah the Maccabee and one of the five sons of Mattathias.

For archaeologists looking for the tombs, passages from the Book of Maccabees provide three crucial clues

“He also erected seven pyramids, opposite one another, for his father and mother and four brothers.

“And for the pyramids he devised an elaborate setting, erecting about them great columns, and upon the columns he put suits of armor for a permanent memorial, and beside the suits of armor carved ships, so that they could be seen by all who sail the sea.

“This is the tomb which he built in Modi’in; it remains to this day,” reads the text.

The historian Josephus Flavius, writing nearly two centuries later, recorded a similar description.

For archaeologists looking for the tombs, those passages provide three crucial clues.

The site, a reader learns, was located on high ground from which it was possible to see the Mediterranean. The original tomb contained seven bodies – those of Mattathias, his wife, and their five sons – as well as other scions of the dynasty who were added later on. And it was near Modi’in, the Maccabees’ hometown. The location of ancient Modi’in has been lost, but scholars agree that it was in the same area where the modern-day city of that name now stands.
The early searchers

The first flurry of interest in finding the lost tombs began in earnest in 1866, as biblical archaeology became popular in Europe. The name Modi’in, a French Catholic priest suggested that year, was preserved in the name of an Arab village in the area – al-Midiya. This is still largely considered to be a logical conclusion. The tombs, it stood to reason, could be found nearby.

His excitement rising, Guérin went on to find pieces of stone that he identified as traces of the complex’s pyramids. Then he found fragments of bone and declared, in the enthusiastic archaeological style of those times, that these were no less than ‘the ashes of the heroic and holy old man Mattathias’

In 1869, another explorer came to the area asking about the tombs of the Maccabees, and local villagers pointed him to a cluster of ancient graves they called Qubur el-Yahud, or the “Jewish tombs.” Though these tombs matched none of the ancient descriptions – the sea was not visible, for example, and there were no signs of monumental construction – the explorer declared that he had found the site. This identification was never taken seriously by scholars, but it has nonetheless proved resilient, bequeathing to us the “Maccabean Graves” that are signposted along the road from Modi’in to Tel Aviv, misleading casual passers-by more than 140 years later.

The next year, 1870, saw the arrival of another Frenchman, Victor Guérin, who was interested in a different location nearby — a site home to a domed Arab tomb of fairly recent vintage and known as Sheikh el-Gherbawy. Guérin discovered the remains of an ancient rectangular structure that was divided, he thought, into seven crypts. That, he noted, matched the correct number of tombs.

His excitement rising, he went on to find pieces of stone that he identified as traces of the complex’s pyramids. Then he found fragments of bone and declared, in the enthusiastic archaeological style of those times, that these were no less than “the ashes of the heroic and holy old man Mattathias.”

The next to arrive was Charles Clermont-Ganneau, a meticulous French scholar who would go on to author a classic 1896 text on Holy Land archaeology, “Archaeological Researches in Palestine.” He showed up at the same site the following year, having set out from Jerusalem in the rain on horseback with a French companion, a rubber raincoat and a revolver. “Palestine was devastated by famine, many peasants had died of hunger, and the roads were hardly safe,” he wrote. “We followed an ancient Roman way which here was easily recognizable with its pavement and its edging of large blocks still in a good state of preservation. We left it to turn northwards and direct our course to el Midieh.”

The site known as the ‘Maccabees’ graves’ contains pagan or Christian graves hewed into bedrock centuries after the time of the Maccabees (photo credit: Matti Friedman/Times of Israel)

Reaching Guérin’s site, he carried out a short excavation, then returned two years later with a work team and conducted a more extensive dig. He found a substantial building, but nothing he thought suggested any connection to the Maccabees. After several days of clearing rubble, he reached a mosaic floor, and when the dirt was cleared away the floor design was revealed – a Christian cross that could have been made no earlier than the fifth century CE.

Far from being the Maccabees’ tombs, the building at Sheikh el-Gherbawy was almost certainly a Byzantine-era church or monastery, one of many in the area. The find, he wrote, directing a scholarly jab at his giddy predecessor Guérin, “naturally calls in question the too hasty conclusions which had been arrived at from insufficient observation.”

During Israel’s War of Independence the same site – then known as Outpost 219, a small ring of trenches next to the old Arab tomb – was the scene of a battle between Israeli and Jordanian troops, and changed hands several times before it was recaptured by Jewish forces and remained on the Israeli side of the line after the armistice. The village of al-Midiya remained under Jordanian control, and is now under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

At some point, Jewish believers seem to have decided that the Ottoman-era Arab tomb at the site was in fact a Jewish holy place. A gravestone inside the building currently declares, with no apparent irony: “Mattityahu, son of Yohanan, the High Priest, is buried here.”
Coming full circle

One hundred and twenty-nine years after Clermont-Ganneau’s visit, archaeologists are still looking for the tombs. Leading the search these days is Amit Reem, the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist in charge of central Israel. For a digger in this part of the country the Maccabees are nearly inescapable – the Holy Land’s archaeological mega-celebrities, King David and Jesus of Nazareth, lived elsewhere, and there are no greater ancient stars under his purview. And identifying their graves would also serve a second purpose — helping scholars to conclusively identify ancient Modi’in.

The Maccabees, as depicted by the Polish artist Wojciech Stattler (1800–1875) (photo credit: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

In recent years, interest in the area’s history has grown along with the influx of residents into the city of Modi’in, a tidy middle-class suburb of 80,000 built from scratch on hills that were empty until the 1990s. In 2000, archaeologists excavating outside a new neighborhood found a Hasmonean-era Jewish village centered on a synagogue, and some raised the possibility that this was ancient Modi’in and that the famous tombs could be nearby. No evidence has been found to support that idea.

A few years before, a bulldozer clearing the way for a new road near the city accidentally uncovered a 2,000-year-old burial cave with stone ossuaries, one of which seemed to bear lettering that suggested the word “Hasmonean.” This led to another burst of public interest, though the inscription had been misread and the grave could not be linked to the Maccabees – ossuaries were used by Jews for burial only more than a century after the Maccabees’ lifetime.

Others have suggested a possible link to a high point near the city known as Titura Hill, where a Crusader fort sits atop the ruins of a large and as yet unidentified Roman-era building. Nothing on the hill, however, suggests a link to the tombs.

All of which has led Reem and other modern scholars back to the same site that drew the interest of the French diggers all those years ago.

The team used radar to peer under the ground, detecting massive walls and subterranean chambers of considerable size

Though Clermont-Ganneau conclusively established that the structure at Sheikh el-Gherbawy was Christian – the mosaic cross left no doubt about it – his finding might actually strengthen the possibility that the tombs are there, Reem said.

Early Christians saw the Maccabees as martyrs and would certainly have venerated their graves, he believes: In this version, the structure could have been constructed atop the lost tombs to mark their place.

In 2009, Reem made an effort to clean and investigate the site. Many of the remains the Frenchmen had seen all those years before had been long since looted, but the team used radar to peer under the ground and detected massive walls and subterranean chambers of considerable size.

The site, he noted, has remains of monumental construction; proximity to al-Midiya, which has the best claim to be ancient Modi’in; and a clear sightline to the sea. In other words, it would seem to match the criteria from the ancient writings.

Since then, Reem has been trying, without success, to drum up funding that would allow the site to be properly excavated for the first time.

“Neither I nor my colleagues are saying that this is the site of the tombs, but it’s the leading candidate,” he said. “Only a large, methodical excavation would prove or disprove the idea and solve the riddle of this place.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Masorti (Conservative) movement statement condemning the decision to outlaw circumcision of baby boys in Germany

Statement from the Masorti (Conservative) movement condemning the decision to outlaw circumcision of baby boys in Germany

Masorti Olami, Masorti Europe and the Rabbinical Assembly of Europe join the Central
Council of Jews in Germany in condemning the decision of the district Court in Cologne
to outlaw circumcision of baby boys.

The circumcision of 8 day old male babies remains an important and meaningful rite in
the lives of Jews all over the world. No other country has outlawed circumcision and
this new legal decision impinges upon the religious freedom of Germany's citizens be
they Jewish or Muslim and the rights of other parents who wish to circumcise their

A brit milah, as the circumcision ceremony is called in Hebrew, is one of the first
mitzvot (or commandments) that God asks of Abraham. Just as Abraham observed the
commandment, so too have his Jewish descendants over 1000s of years. While the
Masorti movement consistently balances the needs of modernity against the needs of
halacha or Jewish Law, there is no overwhelming proof that the circumcision of
newborn boys causes any "irreversible damage against the body" as stated in the
German court's decision. On the contrary, medical research has shown that
circumcision can reduce the risk of HIV infection, penile cancer and other urinary tract

The over 1.7 Million people in the 900 congregations and organizations in 45 countries
represented by the Masorti (Conservative) Worldwide Movement call upon the
Government of Germany to quickly work to reverse this grievous course of curtailing
religious freedoms and dictating fundamental actions of faith communities.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, President of the Rabbinical Assembly of Europe
Rabbi Gesa Ederberg, Rabbinic Advisor of Masorti Germany
Dr. Joanna Kubar, President of Masorti Europe
Rabbi Chaim Weiner, Av Bet Din and Director of Masorti Europe
Rabbi Gerry Skolnik, President of the International Rabbinical Assembly
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of The International Rabbinical Assembly
Alan Silberman, President of Masorti Olami
Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, Executive Director of Masorti Olami