Why I am sueing the orthodox Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal for having a circumcision performed on his son

by Christian Bahls

I’d like to make one thing very clear right up front:

This lawsuit is not driven by any anti-Jewish resentments, but by the strong belief that all children bear the same inalienable rights.

With it i don’t aim on attacking the Jewish naming ceremony that involves amputation of the foreskin, that is an issue for an internal debate among the Jewish people.

I want to point out explicitly that I reject any ideology or action that is directed against a humane, tolerant, free and democratic value- and law-abiding society. I will refuse or quit any cooperation with persons or groups of whom I think would put a society based on democratic values, unconditional and at any time, in question.

In that spirit I also disapprove of any misuse of my efforts to further children’s rights to bodily integrity by people that use the issue of circumcision to fuel their discriminating thoughts against minorities.

For now my aim is to shed some light on the circumstances of this particular circumcision. It clearly shows that some people are unwilling to abide to at least the minimum standards set forth by law, for example just obeying the rules for proper medical treatment.

In the video published on the website of the Berlin Tagesspiegel one can see how Mr. Menachem Fleischmann takes a mouthful of wine, then leans down over baby Mendel Teichtal to suck blood from his bleeding penis.

In §1631d BGB the law states that parents may only consent to a foreskin amputation if it is to be performed according to the rules of medical science, with the degree of skill and learning commonly applied under all the circumstances in the community by the average prudent reputable member of the profession.

Taking a babies bleeding penis into one’s mouth to suck blood out of it – a procedure called Metzitzah B’peh – can not be according to this rules.

Hence, in Germany parents can not legally consent to such a practice (a circumcision involving Metzitzah B’peh). The amputation of the foreskin was therefore illegal. This makes it an infliction of bodily harm (in this case additionally qualified as a dangerous one, since it was carried out with a knife).

The act of performing a Metzitzah B’peh in itself would be a violation of the demand for adherence to the rules for medical treatment to make the foreskin amputation legal according to §1631d BGB.

It is not to be assumed that the legislator intended to legalize the Metzitzah B’peh. During the hearing in the justice committee of the German Bundestag on Nov. 26th, 2012, Rabbi and urologist Dr. med. Antje Yael Deusel stated: “The most recent medical standards concerning surgical execution, including sterility and appropriate pain treatment, both during and after the operation, have to be met. A so-called Metzitzah B’peh – meaning a direct sucking of blood from the wound – is obsolete and has to be omitted unconditionally.” (German protocoll from the hearing)

Performing a Metzitzah B’peh carries a substantial risk of the transmission of herpes viruses from the Mohel’s saliva to the infant. This can result in a meningitis, potentially leading to paralysis, permanent brain damage and death. With a seroprevalence in 80 to 90 percent of the male population, this poses a significant risk.

This fact must very likely have been known to the father, Yehuda Teichtal, since the Jewish community in New York (USA) named Chabad Lubawitsch sees itself confronted with a decree issued my Jewish mayor Michael Ruben Bloomberg after the occurrence of 11 herpes infections due to performances of the Metzitzah B’peh, of which 2 resulted in the death of the infant.

The danger associated with his actions must have also been known to the Israeli circumciser, Menachem Fleischmann. In response to the incidents in New York in 2012, the Israeli pediatrics society IAPA clearly spoke out against Metzitzah B’peh. (http://www.juedische-allgemeine.de/article/view/id/13733)

Another reason for me to file this lawsuit is to clarify the practice of “Periah”. It can be assumed that the Mohel – when alone with the infant in an adjacent room – while do what he called “caring for the wound” – performed a radical foreskin amputation on the infant.

During a Periah, the remaining inner layer of the foreskin – which on newborns is fused to the glans, much like a fingernail to the nail bed – is scraped off all the way down to the corona glandis. (https://www.realeyz.tv/de/its-a-boy.html)

This procedure lasts longer then just a few seconds, the Brit Milah seen in the synagogue is probably only the first part. With a single cut, it would not be possible to remove the entire inner layer of the foreskin without amputating or damaging the glans penis.

I believe it should be investigated whether the entire inner layer of the foreskin down to the corona glandis has been removed, and if, whether this can still be considered part of the naming ceremony or rather an infliction of bodily harm not covered by §1631d BGB.

I would also like to address the people of Jewish faith reading this:

I think it is worth a look to find out whom one might fraternize with when pledging solidarity to Rabbi Teichtal. What Chabad Lubawitsch stands for especially. Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the council of Jews in Germany, said “There is indeed a saying, that Chabad was a sect that is closest to Judaism. It’s not from me, but I think, its a sentence that pretty much matches the description” (http://www.dradio.de/dkultur/sendungen/ausderjuedischenwelt/1950259/)

I have seen Mr. Teichtal personally, and got the impression that if pressed to decide between the norms of the society (and therefore secular laws) and religious rules, he’d choose the second and would willingly engage in violations of the law, like he did in this case.

In conclusion, as Mr. Teichtal  - because his involvement in the german discussion 2012 – must know about the illegality of his acts. I see the way the ritual has been performed on March 3rd, 2013, as a deliberate provocation.

Also there is one thing I’m totally aware of: by far the most people of Jewish descent in Germany don’t have their sons circumcised. Only a small minority has their sons circumcised, and of those only a few have it done to such an extent and following such an archaic rite like Mr. Teichtal had it done on his son on March 3rd.

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