Wiesenthal Center Urges Swiss to Ensure Rite of Circumcision

July 25, 2012

“Without strong, unequivocal leadership from the top, these initiatives will further embolden anti-Semitism in the mainstream of European society,” says Center official.

The Simon Wiesenthal center today urged the Swiss government to protect the religious rite of circumcision following news that hospitals in Zurich and St. Gallen have suspended the practice on Jewish and Muslim boys in wake of a similar ban in Germany ordered by a judge in Cologne.

In a letter to Manuel Sager,  the Swiss Ambassador to the US, (pictured), Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Center’s Director of Interfaith Affairs, wrote, “…you certainly also know of the dishonorable role that bans against circumcision have played for centuries. They have been a favorite tool of haters in both treating Jews as second class citizens and in fanning the flames of anti-Semitism.” The rabbis said that the religious rite has been practiced countless times in Swiss hospitals, leading them believe that these recent bans can only be based on a bias against Jews and not on any medical or ethical concerns.

Rabbi Cooper and Rabbi Adlerstein reminded Ambassador Sager that the German Bundestag is already defusing the controversy around the ban by committing itself to finding a legislative solution. “Responsible voices in the Swiss government must follow the lead of the Bundestag and quickly move to protect circumcision in Switzerland, before she becomes known as a global example of religious intolerance,” they said.

Cooper and Adlerstein asked Ambassador Sager, “…to transmit our protest to your government, and ask its leaders to restore the rights of its Jewish and Muslim citizens to practice their religion without fear of discrimination or worse.”

The ban against circumcision in Switzerland comes against the backdrop of efforts by German authorities to quiet international outrage caused by the Cologne judge's ruling that circumcision is a criminal “violation of physical integrity” that “conflicts with the child’s interest of later being able to make his own decision on his religious affiliation.” The Wiesenthal Center wrote Chancellor Merkel to forge a non-partisan legislative move to protect what is the core rite of the Jewish People for the last 3,500 years. Public opinion polls in Germany show troubling support for the ban: in a taken by the DPA news agency, 45% supported forbidding the rite of circumcision, with 42% opposed.

“Without strong, unequivocal leadership from the top, these initiatives will further embolden anti-Semitism in the mainstream of European society,” Rabbi Cooper warned.

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).