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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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PC Just Went a Notch Crazier over Circumcision Petition


Hillel the Elder

Hillel the Elder
Photo Credit: Arthur Szyk

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Last week, the Jewish Press online ran a petition calling on the German government to do something about a disastrous ruling by a power hungry court in Cologne, which used an appeal of a lower court decision on a botched Muslim circumcision to, essentially, make ritual circumcision verboten in Germany (I use the term “verboten” advisedly…).

The petition was wildly successful, gathering better than 12,000 signatures, all of them real, verified, honest-to-goodness expressions of Jewish outrage at this move – in one a week. In Jewish Internet terms this is the equivalent of a mini Woodstock.

Our boss, Stephen Leavitt, sent a personal thank you note to each and every person who signed the petition, adding at the end:

In Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of our Fathers) Hillel taught us, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”

This stark call for moral behavior even in a place of great turpitude, elicited the following response from a reader in Toronto, a fine lady, I’m sure, whose identity we choose to protect mainly on account of the turpitude thing:

“That sticks in my throat; I am a woman. In future I will look for women’s petitions only.

“You have offended me and more than half the Jews on earth.

“Take me off your mailing list!”

Our dear Stephen read these three lines several times, while desperately trying to pick up his jaw, which had dropped to the floor. He then spent a few more minutes contemplating the best response, obviously in keeping with the turpitude thing. He finally wrote:

“The quote was said by Hillel.

“Hillel lived over 2000 years ago.

“It is a very famous quote.

“I’m sure he’s quite sorry he offended you.”

Mind you, this is a woman who supported the Jewish rite of circumcision, so her heart was in the right place. And yet, when it came to first century grammar, using the male to represent both sexes, somehow, the walls of reason came tumbling down on her.

We, too, wish to apologize on behalf of Hillel, and propose that his harsh critic from Toronto read the statement as it would have been written had the head of Sanhedrin not been such a chauvinist pig:

In a place where there are no women, strive to be a woman.

Yes, I know, it works much better…

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About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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12 Responses to “PC Just Went a Notch Crazier over Circumcision Petition”

  1. Oh, for goodness' sake.

  2. Tzvi Fishman says:

    Dear Mr. Leavitt, don't take it to heart – a lot of times readers say that I'm racist too!

  3. "And in the place where there are no fish, strive to be a Fish, man!"

  4. Boris Moyse says:

    "And in a place where there are no jews, strive to be a good jew!"

  5. Hugh Intactive says:

    You use the term "verboten" wrongly. The decision does not forbid circumcision, only restrict it to consenting adults. ("nur für Erwachsene" would cover it.) The court interpreted the German Basic Law correctly, where it guarantees physical integrity to all people. It will be hard to change to allow any cutting of baby boys and none of baby girls without falling foul of another guarantee, equality of the sexes.

  6. Yori Yanover says:

    Oh, I used it right where it left an impression. Take a German court decision against a Jewish rite, I would say the word verboten is on the money.

  7. Yori Yanover says:

    I don't think ol' Hillel meant only Jews. He was actually a universalist on this one.

  8. Yori Yanover says:

    You can give a man a man, or you can teach a man to fish man.

  9. Hugh Intactive says:

    This is not about impressions. It wasn't against a Jewish rite, it was to protect children regardless of their parents' origins or beliefs. In the USA, 96.5% of circumcision is non-religious. Speed the day when US law is interpreted correctly there too to guarantee THEIR security of person and equality.

  10. Joseph Lewis says:

    The German court never forbade a Jewish rite; it said only men of age can choose whether or not they want the rite for themselves. What seems to be "verboten" is to talk about the fact that the boy in this ruling has to live for the rest of his life with half-a-penis as a result of a medical procedure he neither needed nor couldn't consent to. Poor Germany; verboten to speak the truth on the risks of needless genital mutilation because this "infringes" on the "religious freedoms" of a vocal minority…

  11. Boris Moyse says:

    agreed Yori, hence the "and…" :^)

  12. Boris Moyse says:

    Yori, very nice article btw.

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