“I didn’t want to ‘get lost:’ ” A conversation with Rabbi David Goldberg

In the summer of 2012, there was an intense discussion in Germany about whether the circumcision of boys constitutes bodily harm under the law. Preceding this so-called ‘circumcision debate’ was a decision by Cologne’s district court that criminalized the ritual circumcision of boys. A high point in the debate occurred when a German doctor registered a legal complaint against Rabbi David Goldberg, of Hof, claiming that he was liable for “dangerous personal injury” due to the circumcisions he performed. I spoke with him about the complaint, and about his feelings as well as the reactions that he encountered during that period.

Elderly man in a suit with glasses and full beard

Rabbi David Goldberg © private

Dear Rabbi Goldberg, how did it happen that you were reported?

That’s easy to explain: I’m known in Germany as a circumciser and I’m easy to find through my website. Opponents of circumcision were looking for a sacrificial victim and they found it in me. Because the people who made the complaints against me…

… there were more than one?

Yes, there were a number of them. But the people behind them didn’t even know me. They were simply looking for a scapegoat.

How was it for you during that period?

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“One of these days I’m going to tell you everything”

Cover of the Graphic novel 'The Boxer'

Cover of the Graphic novel © Reinhard Kleist, The Boxer, Selfmadehero 2014

Several of us at the Jewish Museum Berlin have observed that, over the last few years, the market for young adult literature has begun to demonstrate a growing interest in the subject of Nazism and the Holocaust. In the coming weeks, we will be introducing contemporary and classic works on this topic that we have read and discussed together.

What happened to the people who survived the concentration camps – what was life like afterwards? For their families, their children, the survivors themselves?

Alan Scott Haft’s father Hertzko Haft was a vicious and violent man, the polar opposite of what we would consider today to be a “good father.” Many years passed before Alan Scott Haft understood – and he didn’t really want to know – why his father was that way.

At some point he learned a little more:  continue reading


On belonging and family debates: a conversation about a circumcision that didn’t happen

Baby practising the sign of priesterly blessing

Circumsized or not, he is already practising … © private

Signe and Darrell have been together a long time. They met in the USA, have shared an apartment in Berlin for nearly 15 years, and now have two daughters and a son together. Signe’s family is Jewish American on the mother’s side, German Protestant on the father’s. Darrell is 100 % North American – in his family, you can find just about everything: Puritan pastors, Unitarian ministers, Mormons, Catholic liberation theologians, liberal Muslims, secular Jews. I talked with the two of them about circumcision and the role that Jewish tradition has played in raising their children.

You first had a daughter, then twins. One of the twins is a boy. Did you think a lot about the question of whether to circumcise your son while you were pregnant?
Signe: When I found out that one of the twins was going to be a boy, my first thought was  continue reading