A Circumcision to keep the (family) peace

In some families the subject of circumcision provokes intense discussion, as you can see in the films that are part of our special exhibition “Snip it! Stances on Ritual Circumcision”. Oliwia is familiar with this difficult situation: on the one hand her Muslim husband considers it a natural part of the tradition, and on the other, particularly her Catholic father argues vehemently against it. Should she have her four-year-old son circumcised? What does she think of the practice herself? We spoke about these questions with Oliwia, as well as about her final decision.

Oliwia*, what different factors affected your family’s conflict over whether to circumcise your son?

Black and white photography: Boys in uniforms on a stage

“Boys before their Circumcision”, photo from the series “Turkish in the Ruhr district”, Cologne, 1983 © Henning Christoph / Soul of Africa Museum

My husband is Moroccan and Muslim. My background is Roman Catholic, although I converted to Islam in 2006. We had a son four years ago and from the beginning it was clear for my husband that Jamal would be circumcised. It’s a part of the tradition for him and it symbolizes a man’s identification with Islam.

It wasn’t so clear for you?

No. Actually, I’m  continue reading


“It was only later that I had my doubts.” A conversation about mixed emotions triggered by ritual circumcision

Black and white photography: The godfather’ chair and the infant carrier with Yair

Before the circumcision ceremony: the godfather’s chair and the infant carrier with Yair © photo: Birgit Glatzel

Naomi converted to Judaism six years ago. Shortly afterwards she became pregnant, went to live with her boyfriend Avishay in Tel Aviv, and gave birth there to a son, Yair, who was circumcised as Jewish law demands. In the meantime the couple has moved to Berlin and separated. Naomi recently showed me the photos she took at the ceremony and we talked about her thoughts on ritual circumcision, then and now.

Mirjam: What was your very first thought when you heard you were expecting a son?

Naomi: I was delighted. For Avishay and I, it was also clear from the get-go that we’d have him circumcised. But, to be honest, we neither gave the matter much thought nor prepared for it in any way. It is Jewish tradition to  continue reading


“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?

 continue reading