Libel Case For Skin Claim

From the New York Times:

Is it libelous to falsely report that someone is not circumcised?

That question is at the heart of an unusual lawsuit filed in United States District Court in Brooklyn recently against Centropa, the Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation, an oral-history project, based in Vienna and Budapest, that focuses on Jewish life and culture in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In the lawsuit, John F. Singer, 49, of Queens, claims that Centropa published an online interview in 2005 that quoted his mother saying that neither of her sons had been circumcised as infants. Mr. Singer asserts that he told the center’s director, Edward Serotta, that he was, in fact, circumcised as an infant, and that Mr. Serotta approved the publication of the article containing the incorrect claim anyway.

A footnote in Leonard B. Glick’s 2005 Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America gives some background as to why Singer might feel cut up about this (p. 292-3):

In an analysis of talmudic regulations pertaining to men with damaged or incomplete genitals (called tumtum), [David] Kraemer in [Reading the Rabbis, p. 123]…shows that, in the minds of the rabbis, “the uncircumcised male, like the tumtum, is a person of ambiguous sexual identity…One who is uncircumcised is not only not fully Jewish but also not fully male…the uncircumcised Jewish male is not only barely a Jew – he is also, from the Jewish perspective, barely a male”.

In nineteenth-century America, Rabbi Abraham Rice ruled that (p. 143):

Such a boy or man was to be regarded as an alien…He could not be counted in the quorum of ten men (minyan) required for public prayer, and he and his neglectful parents were to be regarded as apostates with no share in “the world to come.” Only a hemophiliac whose two brothers had died after circumcision could be excused.

Contemporary physicians added the supposed detail that “pathological impulses originating in a long ‘irritable’ prepuce could travel everywhere from feet to brain” (p. 161).

(Hat tip: Bulldada Newsblog)