Sweden’s circumcision vote: rabbi warns of growing intolerance

Sweden’s circumcision vote: rabbi warns of growing intolerance October 8, 2019
Image via YouTube

RABBI Pinchas Goldschmidt, above, President of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), has slammed  Sweden’s Center Party for voting last week by 314 to 166 to to oppose the non-medical circumcision of boys.

Goldschmidt, who has claimed in a 2015 video that Jews and Muslims are “natural allies” in their battle to become integrated into European societies, said the vote was an invitation to Jews to leave Sweden.

Goldschmidt warned that the party’s decision could start a wave of anti-religious legislation across Europe. In a statement yesterday (Monday) he said:

We see this decision as the beginning of a new wave of anti-circumcision legislation in Europe. This is part of the bad spirit of anti-religious legislative initiatives in Europe. The Swedish Center Party’s decision to promote a ban on religious circumcision is a request for Jews to leave Sweden, the most liberal of EU states. We mourn the lack of tolerance and loss of diversity in today’s Sweden.

And he threatened that, if necessary, the CER:

Will enlist the international community, as we did in Iceland and other countries, in order to fend off this attack. Even though the Swedish Center Party is not part of the coalition, we must remember that it represents 8% of the votes, holds 31 seats in the 349-member Parliament, and is the third-largest party in Sweden.

Goldschmidt pointed out that in the past few years there has been:

A number of similar legislative attempts against circumcision in Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. We have seen how the process moves forward, and only after we put up a strong fight, with the help of international organizations, did these countries decide not to ban [circumcision].

The party’s head, Annie Loof, was among several leaders who criticised the vote.

Jewish circumcisions are currently licensed by the Swedish National Board of Health. When carried out on the eighth day of a Jewish boy’s life, they are joined by a nurse or a medical doctor.

Goldschmidt also met in Brussels with Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, Emmanuel Nahshon:

To mobilize Israel for the fight against anti-religious legislation in Belgium.

According to the CER, Nahshon received “a comprehensive overview of the special problems” European Jewry is facing, and “in particular the legislation against shechita [ritual slaughter] in the two largest provinces in Belgium.

Nahshon expressed his confidence that Israel would help as much as possible in the battle against anti-religious legislation that often accepts antisemitic expression of humanity.

Last Friday, the leadership of the Orthodox Union (OU), the US’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organisation, expressed deep concern over the Swedish Center Party’s vote.

Image via YouTube

OU president Moishe Bane, above, warned that:

The Swedish Center Party’s decision to promote a ban on religious circumcision is synonymous with calling for the end of Jewish life in Sweden. Religious circumcision is a core Jewish obligation, which has been practiced for over two millennia.

OU executive Vice President Allen Fagin warned that the party’s decision to promote a ban on religious circumcision would lead to the exodus of Jews from the country.

We ask that they hear our concerns, understand the importance of this issue, and respond accordingly.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Raging Bee

    So they’re admitting that male genital mutilation is done only for religious reasons? They’re not trying to justify it on any sort of medical grounds? Nice of them to clear that up at least.

  • Raymond Metcalfe

    We see this decision as the beginning of a new wave of anti-circumcision legislation in Europe. This is part of the bad spirit of anti-religious legislative initiatives in Europe. The Swedish Center Party’s decision to promote a ban on religious circumcision is a request for Jews to leave Sweden, the most liberal of EU states. We mourn the lack of tolerance and loss of diversity in today’s Sweden .So its the thin end of the wedge argument again. It is not a anti religious law but a anti cruelty law and I wonder how many are ready to leave sweeden Its just more religious screaming persecution because we cant have our own way and continue a barbaric practice

  • Raging Bee

    I agree with the intent and objective of this vote, but I think arguing for an outright ban on circumcision is going too far, “anti-Semitic” or not. I think a more reasonable policy would be: a) no advocacy or push for infant circumcision by any medical personnel without clear medical need in specific cases; and b) no infant circumcision without advance written consent/directive from the parents or legal guardians. Perhaps one party’s support of a more extreme measure can lead to a more reasonable and humane compromise than we’d otherwise get.

    Apparently the current law requires qualified medical personnel to be present for infant circumcisions. I consider that a half-decent compromise, at least until more people start to give up and shun the practice.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    decision to promote a ban on religious circumcision is a request for Jews to leave Sweden

    No, you ignorant putz, it’s a request for you to join the 21st century and stop forcing unnecessary medical procedures onto unwilling subjects.

  • Thanks4AllTheFish

    Maybe they should be required to travel 300 miles to a clinic, wait two days, view a 20 minute film on foreskin42 hygiene, submit to an invasive examination, read several brochures on the dangers of lay medical procedures, fight their way through protesters and forever be shunned henceforth for lacking a helmet shield?

  • Carstonio

    Labeling it a “ban on religious circumcision” is deceptive. It rejects reasons that are neither religious nor medical.

    If it were totally up to me, I would have all parents choose to delay circumcisions, ear piercings and other elective procedures until the child is old enough to make an informed choice. But I still think the legislation goes too far. Given the history of anti-Semitism in Sweden, and the more recent European hostility toward Muslims, I wouldn’t be surprised if right-wing elements in Sweden support the law as a de facto tactic to marginalize the two groups. Government action might be more appropriate if there were a public health issue involved – I oppose religious exemptions for vaccinations.

  • Raging Bee

    Sounds reasonable to me.

  • Brian Curtis

    Countries have banned other barbarous religious practices all the time, and continue to do so. What the rabbis need is an explanation of how their ritual isn’t abuse/cruelty/mutilation, not a complaint that everybody should just accept it in the name of ‘tolerance.’

  • Raging Bee

    This does coincide with a campaign against “halal”/”kosher” butchering practices (mentioned by the rabbis), which appear (to me at least) to based on dubious claims regarding which method of killing an animal is more humane, and whether the difference is really big enough to merit a ban on one of the options.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    The one magic word that most religions just cant seem to grasp ‘CONSENT’. If you think men should have their privates mutilated for religious reasons then let them do it as ADULTS.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    SWING AND A HIT! Home Run!

  • otrame

    Look. There is a simple way to solve the problem. If an adult, say 18 years old, decides to honor a covenant with a god by having part of his penís cut off, I say go for it. After all, Abraham was an adult when he did it. And just how significant can this little sacrifice be if it is not the choice of the man in question?

  • otrame


  • AuldLochinvar

    I have been assured that male genital mutilation is far less damaging than the various versions of the female variety. I first heard of “female circumcision” from a Presbyterian minister that had practiced in Kenya and said that the Mau-Mau (yes, it was as long ago as that) were particularly incensed against such British interference with their customs. According to him, it was more tribal than religious, but there was no Muslim opposition to it.
    I have a friend, an intelligent woman with a Maasai father and a Christian Meru mother, whose mother forbade FGM of her daughters.
    I accept the argument that male circumcision is “stepping onto a slippery slope” and I cannot see why such barbarism should be any part of a decent religion.
    The argument that Mr Metcalfe quotes, that it’s anti-religious is merely a comment upon the absurdity widespread among religions. Thuggee was allegedly (according to my friend Suchitra) a religious practice, devoted to Kali.
    I like the slogan “Help Stamp Out Theophagy” although I would not seriously promote it. But people have been hanged on account of a red fungus seeming to imply violation of the practice.

  • AuldLochinvar

    If you’ve already captured and killed a hundred Philistines, and want to take their foreskins as a trophy to your prospective father-in-law, I see no harm in that. I suppose he has to take your word for it that they’re Philistine foreskins. This Biblical tale gives me “innocent merriment”.

  • Raging Bee

    Lamest trophy EVER!

  • Raging Bee

    Is that one of those evil spell-words found in the Harry Potter books the Christians hate so much?

  • WallofSleep

    It might as well be in Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon the way certain fundies recoil from the word.

  • WallofSleep

    You would think so, but if you stick them into a wallet, and rub on said wallet vigorously, it turns into a suitcase! Think of how much space you’ll save on luggage storage.

  • Vanity Unfair


    A Rabbi is walking down the street about his normal rabbinical duties when suddenly he is wrestled to the ground by a much larger man who then takes out a knife and cuts off one of the Rabbi’s earlobes and deftly fixes on a bulldog clip to stop the bleeding. It is all over in seconds and the Rabbi has shock rather than pain. What is the outcome?
    The attacker is arrested, tried and sentenced to (up to) five years imprisonment for wounding/GBH. And a good thing too.
    An eight-day old baby……..

  • doninkansas

    I always ask about female genital mutilation and I am usually told it isn’t the same thing, but I beg to differ, it is the same in my opinion. Neither are necessary, they both are done without consent, they both they both cause a decrease of sensitivity, both can have severe consequences to the person involved. Both are often done under very unsanitary conditions. Both are barbaric leftovers from a primitive society.

  • Raging Bee

    Thanks, I’ll try that if I can’t make a silk purse out of them…

  • Don’t Muslims practice circumcision as well?

  • CoastalMaineBird

    the party’s decision to promote a ban on religious circumcision would lead to the exodus of Jews from the country.

    If the only reason you’re there is so that you can mutilate your children without repercussions, then good riddance to you all.

  • Raymond Metcalfe

    yes they do I don’t know at what age though

  • Madison Blane

    There are alike in kind, but not always in degree. Some types of FGM are comparable to circumcision – removal of non-erectile tissue of the inner labia – there are other types that are less severe where no tissue is removed, and types that are more akin to having the entire penis (all externally accessible erectile tissue) removed. What most people in the west think of FGM is the latter degree, removing the organ entirely, and it minimizes the severity of damage done to compare that to a procedure which leaves function and a degree of sensitivity intact. That doesn’t mean circumcision is not sometimes traumatizing or that it is the correct choice, but it makes a person sound ill-informed and hyperbolic to claim that the two are “the same thing.” Having a fingernail removed is painful and mutilating, but it’s not the same as lopping off the entire hand. We can say both are wrong without having to draw anatomically inaccurate comparisons. There is a major difference between “useable but with altered sensation” and a complete amputation.

  • doninkansas

    yup, just like there are different styles of male circumcision. and there is no reason for any of them, unless there is a genuine medical problem to be corrected. And probably close to enough botched male circumcisions to equal the female ones that are the most extreme. no matter, they are both barbaric.

  • Raging Bee

    Minor quibble re: your #7: that’s 69sexual MUTILATION, not just “assault.”

    Also, I think legislative proposals such as these should be used to spark debate, galvanize anti-circ opinion, and show the world that circumcision can be discussed openly, and is no longer taken for granted as “something that’s just done.”

  • Madison Blane

    You know what would have kept my sons uncut? A medical professional – ANY medical professional of the dozens I came into contact with while admitted for L&D and recovery – simply mentioning that the procedure was optional and not medically necessary. Twenty years ago they just came in with “we need you to sign these forms” and the baby was returned at the next feeding all bandaged up with vaseline gauze. Nothing was explained beforehand, no genuine option given or pros/cons considered, it was all just assumed and taken for granted – IOW, normalized. I regret my ignorance. Just the simple change from default option to intentional deliberation could make all the difference.

    Now in that same state, medicaid and I’m told several insurance companies refuse to pay for it because the APA finally quit waffling about “may have some potential benefits” and unambiguously stated that it’s not beneficial. So medical personnel quit offering it as a default; now parents have to request it, and receive educational counseling, and wait until the finance office can come and discuss how they plan to pay. I know that won’t matter at all to Jewish parents. But in a single generation’s time minor frictions like that can go a very long way to stop most from going through with it.

    Give it an additional generation and overall opinion will shift to where cutting a child is highly unusual. Then we can talk about more restrictions. Maybe Sweden is at that point already. Glittery Fairy Godmother knows they’re generations ahead of us on nearly every other social wellness measure. But I think it’s going to take a more global mindshift. Efforts to eradicate FGM have shown that education along with societal acceptance and normalization of the uncut work far better. Parents will find a way to get it done regardless of the laws as long as they think being uncut will negatively affect their child’s social standing as an adult. We have to change hearts and minds, not just the laws.

  • Raging Bee

    When my mom explained it to me, she just said something like “You were born, then they cut the umbilical cord, then they did this [unspecified] thing to your penis, then we took you home.” Apparently it wasn’t even controversial and no questions were asked or expected — it was just a standard part of the process, just like cutting the umbilical cord, and my parents had zero medical knowledge and had both been raised with a very technocratic mindset, where emotions and pleasure had very low priority, so they probably had no reason or incentive to rock the boat by questioning standard medical procedure WRT the naughty parts that no one talked about in polite company anyway.

    So yeah, shifting the standard default is VERY crucial.

  • ralphmeyer

    Makes one wonder who and what Pinchas pinches!!! Harharharharhar….

  • ralphmeyer

    Especially when doing it gives a person an infection that carries them off…thereby resulting in one less religious wacko!!!

  • ralphmeyer

    Both are merely more religious stupidity…of which there seems to be loads, no matter what religion you care to examine!

  • Mglass

    It’s useful to spark debate, but it’s better to propose something that has a chance of succeeding. There are millions of Jews and more than a billion Muslims. Changing their minds about circumcision could take more than one lifetime. In the mean time, harm minimisation may help to reduce the really bad outcomes.

  • Two men attending a synagogue event were using adjacent urinals in the men’s room. One of the men, even though he was facing the wall and was pointed in the right direction ended up spraying the other man’s pant leg and shoe. The man with the dampened leg said, “Did Rabbi Samuel Cohen do your bris when you were a baby?” The first man, surprised, said, “Why yes. Yes he did. How did you know?” The reply: “He always cuts on the bias…”

  • otrame

    Dude, most Christians I’ve ever met are nicer people than you appear to be.