Faced with a full-on media blitz by the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) to sway public opinion against the ritual circumcision of infants, Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs is choosing a cautious route in response, emphasizing that, the views of the Netherlands’ top medical body notwithstanding, Jewish circumcision is not in danger.
For the past couple of months, KNMG has published op-eds in local newspapers discouraging the circumcision of minors when not medically necessary, and calling on politicians, insurance companies and human rights organizations to help end the practice. The effort follows the publication last year of a 20-page report by the association that urged doctors to emphasize the risks of circumcision with their pediatric patients’ parents.
But Jacobs, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary who is currently immersed in a campaign challenging a legislative push to ban kosher animal slaughter, says that the current atmosphere in the Netherlands leads him to believe that there’s no need to be alarmed.
“We’re not ignoring the situation,” he stresses. “We’ll see what happens and remain alert.”
According to Jacobs, only about 50 Jewish baby boys are circumcised each year. Though there are between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews in the Netherlands, most are older or without children.
The KNMG’s stance is contradicted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states in a policy statement reaffirmed in 2005 that “parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child.”
Jacobs is quick to point out that most of those leading the current campaigns against circumcision on the one hand, and animal slaughter on the other, could not be accused of anti-Semitic animus. In the case of circumcision, he says, the best strategy at the current time is one of quiet persuasion.
“There is no sign,” he states, “that this will be taken up by the government.”