Proposed Circumcision Ban Threatens Jewish Life in Scandinavia

19 Mar 2018

An Icelandic bill that proposes criminalizing circumcision could make Jewish life untenable not just in Iceland but throughout Scandinavia. Kosher slaughter is equally unwelcome because this corner of the world places more value on animal rights and the autonomy of children than it does on religious freedom, according to Ira Forman, a former member of the Obama administration who addressed such restrictions on behalf of the US government.

Jewish communities throughout Northern Europe are concerned that Iceland’s move could encourage similar legislation to be proposed in other Scandinavian countries. In 2013, the five Nordic countries issued a joint statement calling for a ban on the non-medical male circumcision of minors, some likening the practice to female genital mutilation, which was banned over a decade ago. Yair Melchior, Chief Rabbi of Denmark, said, “This is the biggest threat to Jewish life in Scandinavia. It raises questions for us: ‘Does it mean we’re not wanted? Do we have a future here?’”

In a letter, the heads of the Jewish communities in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark wrote that a circumcision ban “will guarantee that no Jewish community will be established” in the affected countries.

As far as kosher slaughter, Sweden, Finland and Norway have banned the practice since the 1930s; Denmark in 2014. Imported kosher meat is available in all of these countries. This may be inconvenient but it is achievable; having to travel internationally with a newborn to perform a circumcision is far less practical.

The issues of the circumcision of minor boys and the ritual slaughter of animals for food affect not only the Jewish communities of these nations but also the Muslim communities.

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