The Central Council of Jews in Germany is giving its highest honor to a pastor who defended the Jewish right to ritual circumcision.
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Nikolaus Schneider, 66, president of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany — the country’s main Protestant body — will receive the the Leo Baeck Prize on Thursday in Berlin. The recognition is for his support of Jewish life in Germany, his dedication to Israel and his “unconditional solidarity in the circumcision debate” that embroiled the country in 2012.
The ceremony kicks off a weekend-long Community Day event in which some 600 Jewish leaders and community members will mark the Sabbath and network, brainstorm and discuss challenges facing Jewry in Germany and Europe.
Last year, Schneider decried a ruling by a Cologne court criminalizing non-medical circumcision in the city as the criminalization of an age-old religious practice. He said this “attack on Jewish identity” upset him “greatly, given history, and our German history with Jewry.” Bucking popular opinion, Schneider also said he did not find the ritual to be “associated with trauma and physical injury” to a child, as the Cologne ruling stated.
Months after the ruling and much debate, Germany enacted a law affirming the right to religious circumcision of boys and setting medical standards to be met by mohels, or ritual circumcisers.
The Central Council has given its Leo Baeck Prize, which comes with a $14,000 prize, since 1957.