Re: The Crime of “Practicing Judaism Openly”

by Ed Whelan

A well-informed reader whose judgment I respect tells me that the report that I highlighted of a German criminal prosecution of a rabbi for performing a circumcision isn’t accurate:

I understand that you are just conveying a report that appeared elsewhere in the press, but as far as I know, that report is not accurate. Prosecutors have not brought criminal charges against the rabbi in question, at least not in the sense you probably intended.

What’s happened is this: An anti-circumcision activist filed a written criminal complaint with the police in Bavaria, based on the fact that the rabbi advertises himself as a ritual circumciser (mohel). Under German law (as far as I understand it) the prosecutors are obligated to investigate the complaint. The precise form of that investigation (within legal boundaries of course) is completely up to them and the police, but they have abundant discretion, as in the U.S. I note that the rabbi, David Goldberg, says he hasn’t even received official notice of any charge.

In short, a citizen has charged another one with a crime, but the state has not charged anyone yet; an “investigation” is ongoing, and not a terribly aggressive one by the looks of it. This report, from Die Welt, strongly implies that the prosecutor is going to take his sweet time, thank God.

Meanwhile, a similar accusation in Berlin ended with the state prosecutor declining to bring a case, saying there was no evidence of a crime.

It is profoundly troubling for a lot of reasons that these people are making criminal complaints against rabbis for practicing their faith at all. I am glad that you are helping to call attention to the situation — but as bad as things are, they are fortunately not quite as bad as you portrayed them.

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