French Jewish leader Richard Prasquier said that banning circumcision in Europe “would inevitably mean the end of Judaism” there.
“You can seek a ban but you need to understand the consequences: The inevitable disappearance of Jewish life from Europe,” Prasquier on Thursday told a European Parliament conference on religious freedoms.
Pasquier has been president of the CRIF since 2007.
CRIF (Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France) is an umbrella body comprising all French Jewish groups, that was originally created in 1944 under the Vichy Regime. Nowadays, this national federation, made up of 62 Jewish organizations, is the voice of the organized French Jewish community.
France has Europe’s largest Jewish community, numbering between 500 and 800 thousand.
The conference, titled “Freedom of Religion and/or Mutual Respect in Europe,” was jointly organized by the European Parliament and the European Jewish Association.
Prasquier said attacking circumcision “is telling Europe’s Jews to pack their suitcases and leave” and that includes “Orthodox, traditional, or non-observant such as myself.”
He was replying to a question by Diane Luquiser, one of the conference’s 50 participants, who asked why Judaism could not “adapt to modern times” and abandon the practice “which hurts children.”
Prasquier revealed he was circumcised 11 years after his birth in Poland in 1945.
“Circumcising me was a difficult decision for my father, a Pole who had to drop his pants when the Nazis caught him,” he said. “That kind of difficulty is a reality which we would not like to see repeating itself.”
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association – the Brussels-based organization behind the conference – said that allowing Jewish and Muslim rites is “necessary for mutual respect.”
Over the past year, ritual circumcision of underage boys has been briefly banned in a Swiss hospital and in some Austrian hospitals after a court in Cologne ruled in June that such circumcision amounted to a criminal offense.
Last month, the German cabinet passed a draft law to permit ritual circumcision and clarify the legal situation.
JTA content was used in this report.