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Letter to Iceland from all Nordic rabbis

Her Excellency, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir,

We, the undersigned rabbis of Jewish Communities in the Nordic countries are deeply concerned about the law proposal pending in the Icelandic Parliament to outlaw and penalise male infant circumcision.

This law proposal would make Iceland the only country in the world where male infant circumcision is illegal.

We would like to remind you of the deep historical implications that such a law would hold. Laws against circumcision have been used throughout history to erase Jews and Judaism: such as under Seleucide empire under king Antiochus IV in 175 B.C.E and later under the Roman Empire. Under the Spanish Inquisition circumcision was used as one indication to identify ''conversos'', Jews, who had been forced by thread of expulsion to convert to Catholicism, but held on in secret to Judaism and Jewish tradition. Later on in European history circumcision was often made difficult in an attempt to force Jews to assimilate or to leave. Despite those dark chapters in history Jews have always stood up to defend this right of religious freedom. Male infant circumcision is a central religious requirement in Judaism and is also deeply rooted in the cultural identity even of secular Jews. It binds us together as a people and with our history.

To propose that circumcision to be postponed until the age of consent goes against medical research that again and again show that the optimal time for circumcision is within the the first month of a male infants life. Postponing it to a later point makes circumcision into a major surgical procedure with risk of unnecessary complications and can hardly be seen as in the childs interest.

But, most of all, it would send a clear message to Jews and the international community that Jews are not welcome Iceland and that their basic fundamental and constitutional rights of freedom of religion, backed by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are not upheld by the Icelandic society.

We call on you and your government to oppose this proposed legislation and instead to introduce legislation that safeguards the right to freedom of religion and the right of parents to raise children in their religious tradition.


Rabbi Jair Melchior Jewish community of Copenhagen

Rabbi Simon Livson Jewish Community of Helsinki

Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen Jewish Community of Malmö

Rabbi Joav Melchior

Jewish community of Oslo

Rabbi Ute Steyer Jewish Community of Stockholm

Rabbi Amram Maccabi Jewish Community of Stockholm

Rabbi Uzi Levian Jewish Community of Gothenburg

Cc Her Excellency, The Ambassador of Iceland to Sweden, Estrid Brekkan

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