Kol Nidre and the “Civil Improvement of the Jews” – Controversies throughout the Ages

Religious ceremony with soldiers

Postcard “Kol Nidre outside Metz 1870,” gift of Liselotte Eschenbach, more information on the object in our German-language online collection
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

On 23 September of this year, we will celebrate Yom Kippur. As always on the eve of the Day of Atonement, synagogues will be overflowing with people anxiously waiting for the singing of Kol Nidre, a prayer (in form of a declaration) in Aramaic and Hebrew that implores God to forget “all vows, obligations, oaths or anathemas, pledges of all names, which we have vowed, sworn, devoted, or bound ourselves to,” either from the past year or for the year to come. This somewhat surprising imploration has caused many prominent Jewish thinkers to question the prayer’s validity.  continue reading

“Part of something greater”: A conversation about a ritual circumcision that vanquished the past

Coloured photograph of the circumsion ceremony in the synagogue

“A ceremony with friends and family”: The bris of Jaal, photo: William Noah Glucroft

In the last few weeks at “Blogerim” we have reported on the discussions that the subject of circumcision can prompt. We shouldn’t lose sight, though, of the fact that the ritual is a matter of course for most Jewish and Muslim families – as, for example, for Amitay and Meital from Israel. I asked the couple what their son Yaal’s bris was like for them.

In mid-December you had Yaal circumcised by a mohel at the Fraenkelufer Synagogue. Did you have to think about it for a long time?

Meital: For me, there was no question.

Amitay: Same here. But when the time approached, I did have some questions.

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“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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