Rabbinical Court Fines Mother $150 A Day Until She Agrees To Circumcise Son

250px-Covenant_of_AbrahamWe have often discussed the lack of separation of temple and state in Israel as well as the control of religious figures on aspects of public life. A story this week vividly illustrates the problem. A rabbinical court has fined a woman hundreds of dollars for refusing to circumcise her baby son and thereby endangering her child. Many doctors are questioning the necessity and value of circumcision, which is generally left up to the parents. However, this is an issue with both religious and medical importance in Israel. The mother was fine $150 dollars every day that the boy was left uncircumcised.

Shimon Yaakovi, legal adviser to the rabbinical court, insisted that “The decision is not based only on religious law. It is for the welfare of a Jewish child in Israel not to be different from his peers in this matter.” Note the shift in the medical argument. It is not that circumcision is necessary for good health but rather that the child would be “different” from other children. That is a bizarre basis to deny a parent the right to make this choice. What is equally bizarre is that there is no law requiring circumcision in Israel and the woman contested the jurisdiction of the rabbinical court over the matter. However the court ruled that it had jurisdiction over such a matter of family law.

It ruled earlier that the mother’s objections do not matter. The father’s wishes to have the boy circumcised were considered by the court to be determinative.

The opinion reflects the lack of legal analysis or professionalism. The court accused the woman of taking this stand to try to win her husband back through a type of forced reconciliation. It then added “The general public which does not observe Jewish law does not even think about fighting on this issue. The Jewish people have always and will always see in the brit mila [circumcision] the completion of the act of creation.” Really? I know plenty of secular Jews who vehemently object to the role of such courts and forced compliance on such issues. However, it is not likely that the “judges” on this religious court have much interaction with such groups.

The Court added a dire warning of where such parental choice would take the nation:

“Until now, the rabbinical courts have not experienced an objection in principle to the performance of circumcision as part of a divorce battle, and if an opening is made here and the mother is given the opportunity to prevent the circumcision or to use her objection as a way to obtain things in the divorce settlement, we will likely find ourselves facing an outbreak of such cases, and then another dimension will be added to the [already] frightening divorce process. This trend must be stopped immediately, since the common good outweighs that of the individual,”

Of course, it could also represent a “trend” toward greater religious freedom and the separation of temple and state.

32 thoughts on “Rabbinical Court Fines Mother $150 A Day Until She Agrees To Circumcise Son”

  1. What if Grizzley Adams converted to Judaism and his wife-bear objected to the “kids” circumcision.

    Judge Bean would have one heck of a decision to make.

  2. Let’s hope she did not interpret the ruling to mean that she personally had to do the meat cutting.

    It is a scientific discipline after all (The American Meat Science Association).

    Image a case where expert testimony was needed as to who or which knew of them knew the subject matter better, mom or dad, and by extension men or women.

    You would have to call an expert or two from “The American Meat Science Association” of course to get a proper factual foundation for a proper incision decision.

    I don’t know what they call it out there in the Israeli desert.

  3. This is the kind of stupid decision that comes out of mixing religion and the law or religion and politics.

  4. LJC,

    I agree that there are things which scholars can point to that would “allow” women to be priests.

    People seem to collaborate in our own oppression way too many times! Part of this stems from living in cultures which present themselves as unquestionable. From an early age we are taught that the way things are is the way they must be, have been at all times and all places.

    Then you get the carrots and sticks to keep you in line. We are social animals who value the approval of others. We get that approval by agreeing with the norms and ideas of the powerful in a society. To disagree can bring real harm. People are very cruel to those who question the powerful. They censor questioners because questions make people uncomfortable.

    Further, societies have “legal” ways, such as in this article, for making people tow the line. It is one reason I find this government’s surveillance of our population so offensive. Surveillance offers up a powerful mechanism for harming those who question the powerful.

    Still, we should not collaborate in our own oppression or the oppression of others.

  5. Jill, plus they ignore ‘Mother Mary” and Mary Magdalene in order to continue the tradition of only men need apply. I agree if you want priests to only be what Jesus was there are a lot more things that priests would have to be to be a priest.
    I am surprised at how many women, especially, are content with the status quo of the more oppressive religious (and not just the gender issue)

  6. LJC, I see religion as a major source for the justification of the oppression of women. The pope says women can’t be priests because Jesus was a man. Well Jesus was a Jew and I don’t hear him demanding that all priests must be male Jews!

    Of course not all religious people agree that women should be oppressed. However, I have not found that many religions which do not have the oppression of women deeply entwined/justified/acted upon in their backgrounds. People who stay religious and do not agree with this oppression have often had to think outside their religious tradition.

  7. Elaine,

    That is quite correct. Many of these same religions are able to make the second class status of women “legal”. The fact that many religions do so does not make it correct.

    Domestic violence laws (now there is some change in this) in the US would be an example of the Judeo Christian values of women as chattel behind these laws and their enforcement.

  8. Jill, just go to any orthodox synagogue. The women are still separated from the men,

  9. This is also the enforcement of male dominance over women. Why is the father’s wish considered more valuable than the mothers’?

    It’s a twofer! Religious law trumps secular law and men get to trample on the rights of women and children. What’s not to love?

  10. Does anyone know whether and how this rabbinical court can enforce its order fining the mother?


    Israeli rabbinical courts (as any other Israeli religious court applying Sharia, Canon law or other religious law) have jurisdiction over family disputes.

    Thus, if this mother don’t circumcise her son, she will face charges of contempt of court.

  11. Flash forward twenty years. Un C Guy is stripping down with his new love of his life. She is amazed at the first seen spectacle. He reveals the story of his mother’s sacrifice in money and ridicule back in Israel. Awe inspiring story.

  12. Justice Holmes is correct. To be a true a democracy church, temple, mosque and state cannot be combined.

  13. With all due respect, of course this is a decision based on religion. Any country that allows a religious court to make such decisions and issue fines for noncompliance is a theocracy or at least boarding on a theocracy. Note that the court says this type of ruling only applies to a Jewish child. While I certainly wouldn’t want it to apply to any child, this language is that it is a religious ruling or at least based on the religion of the Child.

    No religious court in any country that claims to be a democracy should be issuing such enforceable orders. Additionally, no secular court should allow a religious court to influence its decision nor should a secular court rubber stamp a religious court’s decision.

  14. There’s a very interesting article in USA Today. Uncircumcised males are much more likely to pass HIV. There is now a painless, nonsurgical technique that merely bands the foreskin and stops blood flow to the penis. It is seen as a big advance in flowing the stem of HIV in Africa. My dear son had to undergo a surgical procedure when he was 10 years old. He’ll be 30 in January and that procedure is something he still remembers. I am torn as to whether to show him this article.

  15. Very disturbing. Does anyone know whether and how this rabbinical court can enforce its order fining the mother?

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