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Milah UK

Milah UK is delighted to announce the appointment of Jonathan Arkush as its new Co-Chair. He will be taking over from Dr Simon Hochhauser, who announced his intention to step back during the summer after six years in the role. Jonathan will join Professor David Katz, who remains as the other Co-Chair.

Jonathan has an unequalled record in support of the practice of Brit Milah. He has in the past given unstintingly of his time and efforts in response to threats wherever and whenever they occur.  In spite of the enormous time constraints put on him in his past role as President of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan travelled to Reykjavik to combat proposed legislation in the Icelandic Parliament to ban Brit Milah. Jonathan appeared regularly on television, radio and in the press.  He met and lobbied parliamentarians, religious leaders and the media in pursuit of the defeat of this threat to our core Jewish practice and earned the respect of all in leading the defeat of this attempt to ban Milah in Iceland.

Outgoing Co-Chair Dr Simon Hochhauser said, “With more threats to the practice of Brit Milah presently arising, I can think of no better person to co-Chair this essential activity. I will of course not be retiring from my support for Milah UK and I will make myself available to David and Jonathan whenever, and for whatever, they need.”

New Milah UK Co-Chair Jonathan Arkush said, “I am honoured to have been asked to take on this important communal role. I look forward to working with Professor David Katz and I am pleased to be working again with Board of Deputies colleagues who provide the secretariat. I will continue to do my utmost to protect and defend the right to live a Jewish life in our country, wherever Jewish people live.”

Professor David Katz, said: “I am delighted to be working with Jonathan to support Milah. In addition, I want to put on record our thanks to Simon for his unparalleled dedication since the launch of Milah UK. I am very pleased that he will continue to make his expertise and commitment available to us.”

Milah UK is encouraged by the recent Resolution passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which reaffirms Freedom of Religion in accordance with article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and documents clearly that  Jews should have the right to practice their  faith in accordance with their  religious beliefs.

In addition Milah UK is pleased that PACE understands that faiths should be responsible for determining how their own religion should be practiced in public.  However, it recognises that challenges could arise from the detailed implementation of the guidance contained in the Resolution.

Milah UK’s co-chairs Professor David Katz and Dr Simon Hochhauser said:

“Milah UK is particularly pleased about this important step forward in protecting Brit Milah across Europe. The Resolution supercedes the previous motion which cast serious doubt about the legality of our practices.  

We appreciate that the PACE document poses several significant challenges for the UK Jewish community. However, we believe that overall PACE’s efforts (and especially those of the Chairman, Rafael Huseynov) to protect Brit Milah will help to ensure that we can continue to practice it as safely as we can, and as we have done for generations. 

Milah UK will continue to work with the various organisations, such as the Conference of European Rabbis, the European Jewish Congress and the Israeli Government’s Department for Combating Antisemitism, to monitor how the Resolution is implemented.” 

The Royal Society of Medicine has today published a new study from Professor Morten Frisch, a long term opponent of religious circumcision, linking circumcision in children to autism. The study was widely discredited by many scientists including Dr Rosa Hoekstra, lecturer in psychology at the Open University and Professor Jeremy Turk, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist at Southwark Child & Adolescent Mental Health Neurodevelopmental Service.

Milah UK Co-Chairman Professor David Katz released the following statement:

“This report is far from convincing: correlation does not equal causation. There is a long history of attempts to link Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to unrelated practices, such as the Measles/ Mumps / Rubella association, which proved to be fraudulent. There is general agreement that in people suffering from an ASD there are abnormalities that can be identified in brain structure and / or function. There is a strong genetic component, which may be a factor within the faith communities studied here, and which does not appear to have been explored amongst them. Some contemporary research does indicate that factors besides the genetic component are contributing to the increasing occurrence of ASD – for example, a variety of environmental toxins have been invoked to explain why these conditions are more prevalent today than they may have been in the past – but again proof of causation is lacking, and these factors are only likely to be relevant in those who are already vulnerable to them.”   

The statement was published in the Daily Telegraph, Mail Online and together with many other outlets.

This week the ‘Center for Disease Control and Prevention’ (CDC), which advises the federal government of the United States of America on health issues, has issued draft guidelines making clear their view that the medical benefits of circumcision very much outweigh and potential risks.

Recent studies have concluded that health benefits include the lessening the risk of contracting HIV and sexually transmitted infections. For more information please see here.

Whilst Milah UK does not promote circumcision on the grounds of any health benefit, we do often find ourselves debating with groups and individuals who claim that there are significant negative implications to carrying out circumcision. It now seems clearer than ever, that those people are at odds with the prevailing academic wisdom.

Milah UK has been working to support members of the community in Denmark about a hearing on circumcision that occurred on 22nd October. The hearing was organised by The Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, who are a campaign group based in the Danish Parliament. The debate heard a range of opinions on the subject varying from prominent anti circumcision researcher Morten Frisch to a representative of the Jewish Community.

Interestingly, the Director of the Danish Board of Health said that although the Board determines that there is insufficient evidence to generally recommend circumcision for boys, levels of risk are not high enough to recommend a ban.

The debate comes following a sustained period of focus on circumcision in Denmark. Just two days before the debate a new poll indicated that 74 percent of Denmark’s citizens believe circumcision should be fully or partially banned.

Following the hearing Milah UK released the following statement:

“It is important to be clear that at this stage there is no legislative attack on Milah in Denmark. The Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, which is opposed to circumcision in general, organised a hearing on the subject last week – the network is a group that has a degree of support in the Danish Parliament, and their recent event brought together a wide spectrum of opinions on religious circumcision. Interestingly, in parallel, the Director of the Danish Board of Health was explicit that there was not sufficient risk to justify any form of ban; but nonetheless recent opinion polls have highlighted that there is growing public opposition to religious circumcision in Denmark. We will be continuing to offer our full support to the Danish Jewish community, and providing help and advice on how best to combat attacks on their right to perform Brit Milah”