Leader of Oslo Jewish Congregation hits back against Children’s Ombudsman’s circumcision ban

The Leader of the Jewish Congregation Ervin Kohn interviewed in Dagen

Calls circumcision  barbaric

Jewish spokesman in Norway, Ervin Kohn, said the Ombudsman labels circumcision of boys as something barbaric and not telling the truth about the medical arguments for circumcision.

The Ombudsman has submitted its response to the consultation on the Health Ministry’ proposals to regulate circumcision of boys in Norway. The Ministry’s two alternative proposals aim to ensure that ritual circumcision is performed in a safe manner and are available. The Ombudsman opposes this and wants ban on circumcision of boys under 15 possibly 16 years.
– The Ombudsman’s statement represents an attitude that casts circumcision as barbaric, says the head of the Jewish community, Ervin Kohn.


I am a bit disappointed with the Ombudsman. I attended the hearings, they refer to in their submission. The hearing was not a fact-finding mission where it was said, “Let’s start with a clean slate and treat the subject in an orderly manner.” All the others who were invited, had already made ​​up their opinions. There were people who were against circumcision, who supported an age limit. We were placed next to the representatives and piercing artist. They appeared to represent them [the ones opposed to circumcision. M. McG], and there we were. What is the level of knowledge, then? asks Kohn.


According to Kohn,there was a Somali midwife present at the hearing in March. She did not distinguish t between female genital mutilation and ritual circumcision of boys.
Kohn says that a doctor who was present, began with a slide presentation in which he compared circumcision with the ancient Chinese practice of lace girls’ feet and with the custom in parts of Africa, where rings are hung around a girls neck, to stretch it.
– This and several other aspects that are perceived as barbaric,  were referred to examples. The Ombudsman tries to present it as if circumcision of boys is something a little sect is doing and, which must now come to an end since we are so advanced in 2011, he said.

– Most American men are circumcised. That would presumably make it more difficult to argue that this has got to do with a small religious sect?
– Yes,  in the U.S.  80% of men are circumcised, and worldwide,  30 percent, says Kohn.

Almost a lie

He refutes the claim that there are no medical reasons for circumcision.
– It’s almost like lying, says Kohn, and refers to two studies that point out that the risk of becoming infected with HIV for heterosexual men is reduced by 60 percent for circumcised men. He says that there is a lot of research to support the fact that Jewish men seldom get STDs, and Jewish women almost never get gynecologic cancer
– The  World Health Organization, WHO,  is not only recommending circumcision in Africa, but has six active programs where they teach, and help, African men about circumcision as part of the fight against the spread of AIDS, says Kohn.

Fundamental for Jews

– What does circumcision signify for a Jew?
– Circumcision is the most important identity marker for t Jews. It is of such a fundamental importance that many secular Jews see circumcision as the  last bastion, in a way, for his own Jewish identity.
– What do you think is the Ombudsman’s intention in this case?
– I don’t think the Children’s Ombudsman has any religious motivation here. But I think it is based on ignorance and lack of understanding, as well as empathy with the religious dimensions of this matter. The Ombudsman has no respect for the religious arguments in general, and the statement is a symptom of this, says the Jewish spokesman.
– Originally, the Norwegian Constitution forbade Jews entering Norway. How would an age limit for circumcision, as proposed by the Children’s Ombudsman, impact Jews?
– The submission intervenes directly in religious freedom. In this proposal , the children’s rights are set against religious freedom, as if we were not concerned about our children.What is this nonsense? One can not compare these matters against each other, and I react strongly to the Ombudsman’s use of the Convention of the Rights of the Child in this case,says Ervin Kohn.