The Conference of European Rabbis (CER) has been initiating and participating in rallies and engaging in public relations activities in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik recently, as well as at the European Parliament in Brussels, coming out against a bill proposed by Iceland to impose a prison sentence on any person circumcising their son.
The events were held by the non-Jewish opponents of the legtilation from Protestant and Catholic umbrella organizations in Europe and from the European Union.
CER further reported it has managed to mobilize senior US congressional and EU officials, as well as doctors and academics and heads of organizations of all faiths who called the proposal "anti-Semitic"—and sent representatives to the protest rallies.
With the firm backing of the media in Iceland, the rabbis expressed for the first time cautious optimism regarding the thwarting the initiative they claimed violated religious freedom.
President of the conference Rabbi Pinhas Goldschmidt warned that "the Nazis enacted such a law in 1933 and we know how it ended," adding he thought the bill, which passed its first legislative reading two months ago, was "ill advised.""This move is not only a violation of the basic human right to freedom of religion or belief, but a sign that people of Jewish or Muslim background are not welcome in Iceland," he added.
Rabbi Goldschmidt explained that a proposal by rabbis and Jewish organizations to adopt a model approved by the Council of Europe, in Germany and the UK—according to which ethical and medical standards will be anchored in regulation in order to enable the circumcision to be performed—has garnered much support from the public and the media.
While his group was "definitely optimistic" at the public support, the campaign was not yet over.
Bill 'questions our Jewish identity,' says Belgian chief rabbi
Belgian chief rabbi and member of the conference Rabbi Avraham Gigi explained at the Brussels conference the significance and historical and religious background of circumcision, saying it "occupied a central and critical place in culture, religion and Jewish identity."
In his words, "Questioning the freedom of Jewish families to circumcise their children means undermining the most ingrained identity in their collective memory." Therefore, "When a particular country forbids circumcision, it is publicly declaring that no Jewish community is desirable there."
The conference of rabbis noted that the initiators of the law in Iceland came from Denmark, raising the fear that similar attempts will be made afterwards in other Scandinavian countries. "Opponents of circumcision in Denmark have already collected 30,000 signatures from citizens, out of the 50,000 necessary in order to initiate a legislative process there as well," an attendee said.
At the end of the conference, a communiqué was issued by the people and organizations that took part, calling on the Icelandic government and members of the country's parliament to immediately halt the proposal, which they claim violated the right of the child to belong to his family's religious tradition.
Rabbi Goldschmidt added that the proposal put forward by the rabbis and the Jewish organizations to adopt the model approved by the European Council, Germany and Europe, under which ethical and medical standards would be enforced in regulations to allow the performance of circumcisions, was gaining popularity among the public and in the media.
CER Vice President Rabbi Moshe Levin, who attended the Reykjavik conference, met with a parliament member opposing the legislation and discussed the alternative outline with him. "We are definitely optimistic," Goldschmidt said, but clarified that "the battle isn't over yet."
The Conference in Iceland was organised by The Protestant CEC and Catholic COMECE European umbrella groups and local religious leaders, who voiced their opposition to this bill and support for the Jewish and Muslim community.