Circumcision critic has Board links

Rebecca Steinfeld

Rebecca Steinfeld

An Oxford student who launched an attack on male circumcision and called for it to be banned, is an associate of the Board of Deputies, it has been revealed.

Rebecca Steinfeld, the under-35 observer for New West End Synagogue, referred to circumcision as "male genital mutilation" in an article she co-authored in the Guardian.

Time to ban male circumcision? said: "Men, too, can be victims of unjust hegemonic systems tolerated in the name of tradition, culture or religion.

"If we oppose female genital mutilation, has the time not come for us also to oppose male genital mutilation?"

The under-35 observers, who attend meetings but do not have a full vote, were introduced to identify future leaders of the Jewish community.

Ms Steinfeld, whose doctoral thesis is entitled the History and Politics of Fertility Policies in Israel, has previously described shechitah as "awful" and criticised the Board's support of it.

She has appeared sympathetic towards the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, writing on her Twitter page: "How can Limmud justify excluding BDS view at Limmud Oz whilst supporting We Believe conference?"

She was also a signatory on a full-page advert in The Times in 2009 alongside Anglo-Jewish groups strongly critical of Israel, which called for support for the Goldstone Report.

An under-35 at the Board, who did not want to be named, said: "This is disgraceful. Together with her attacks on other aspects of Judaism, one has to question why she even wanted to be on the Board of Deputies.

"It's destructive and will no doubt upset a number of fellow deputies."

Jon Benjamin, the Board's chief executive, said: "The Board's role is to protect and defend the rights of Jews to practice our religion freely, and not to undermine the most fundamental tenets of our faith.

"Under-35 observers are appointed by their respective organisations in addition to the deputies and are able to attend Board meetings as non-voting observers.

"As the Board is a democratic organisation, the deputies will represent a wide range of views from across the communal and political spectrum, including minority views.

"Individual deputies and under-35 observers do not speak on behalf of the Board, but if the synagogue which appointed them takes issue with comments they may have expressed, that will be a matter for them to resolve."

Ms Steinfeld was unavailable to comment.

    Last updated: 12:16pm, June 16 2011