• Rebecca Wald

    There are plenty of intelligent, serious, and soulful Jews who have examined the available evidence to conclude that infant circumcision is not in the best interest of children. This is so despite the widely-held view that circumcision is at once “no big deal” and “vitally important.” More Jews will continue to question, to study, to explore and to write on this issue. To insist our minds have been poisoned begs the question of what is really best for newborns. Please visit the Beyond the Bris project to read many essays, by Jews around the world, from all walks and religious affiliations, who are thinking about and debating on this topic–and ultimately concluding that Judaism can survive and thrive even as an increasing number Jewish families choose not to circumcise.

  • Dreamer Leo

    “the recent decision by the German court may cause a new wave of Jews refusing to circumcise their sons” <– Those sons that you are so adamant on them having circumcised, are the same sons that will judge your actions and refuse your logic 20 years from now. They will be a new wave of men leaving Judaism and refusing to circumcise their sons. Unfortunately you disregard their humanity in the blind conformity to a ritual that effectively damages the body.

    "It is with the greatest hesitation, since I have no right and know so
    little, that I should like to suggest to my fellow Jews that perhaps
    the time has come to redeem the foreskin itself, rather than sacrifice
    it. Surely some substitute might be found for this rite, perhaps even
    involving a token drawing of blood from an older child, that would be
    preferable to this assault upon and mutilation of a newborn infant." (George Wald (November 18, 1906 – April 12, 1997) was an American
    Jew scientist who is best known for his work with pigments in the retina. He
    won a share of the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with
    Haldan Keffer Hartline and Ragnar Granit.)

  • If a member of the Jewish faith was approached at, say, thirty years old and told “we are going to cut off a part of your genitals in the name of God” that person could decide for themselves if they wanted to continue being “Jewish” or “look into other options” I believe the reason that it was insisted that Jews be circumcised as infants is because they cannot fight back. Thus they HAVE to submit, and become what their parents choose for them to be…….based on faith alone, we would probably have many fewer Jews because NO GROWN MAN wants to cut part of his penis off!

    • Choppedliver?

      My parents dropped the ball and didn’t give me bris when I was a baby so I was circumcised as an adult. It wasn’t fun but neither was it traumatic. And everything works just as well as before (if not better). I didn’t want to cut part of my penis off (albeit a small redundant part), but neither did I want to disregard my Jewish soul. My only regret is that my parents idiotically abandoned a millennia old sacred tradition because they thought they knew better – they knowingly hindered my rightful connection to my people, my past and my neshama. If only 8 day old me could’ve given them a slap and told them to have it done then… the recovery would’ve been mercifully milder.
      My story is not unique. There are other grown men who have been circumcised. Why don’t you get their side of the story before you go spouting off nonsense.

      • CountWestwest

        Your parents should be praised for giving you a choice. It’s curious how the entire “Jewish soul” depends on cutting off something that is “redundant”, as you call it, but their decision did not prevent you from choosing what you thought was best for you. That’s the whole point of the Cologne ruling; the owner of the penis should decide what happens to it. Your Jewish soul apparently was safe until you made that decision.

        • Choppedliver?

          Didn’t say “entire soul” but connection to that soul. My soul may have been safe but it didn’t feel whole, but like in some kind of limbo or spiritual vacuum.
          My parents actually didn’t give me a choice. They chose for me to be unconnected – to Torah, to history, to my ancestors. “Giving me a choice” meant growing up I felt neither Jewish nor Gentile but pushed (by them) toward assimilation. In my opinion that was irresponsible. Children aren’t raised to be androgynous in order to give them the choice of gender when they’re older. They shouldn’t be raised in a vacuum under the guise of choice. Babies aren’t left unvaccinated in order to give them the choice when they’re adults. Vaccines hurt, can potentially cause illness and even death (more deaths than circumcision). But the logic is that the benefits far outweigh the risks.
          Jewish parents can value Jewish culture and practice (lighting the Chanukiyah and eating latkes) but unless they value Jewish identity those things will fall by the wayside. And few things are as fundamental to Jewish identity as brit milah.

          • CountWestwest

            Vaccination offers real protection against serious and deadly diseases, and it doesn’t involve mutilation. Circumcision, on the other hand, has no real medical benefits. Not even the Israeli Pediatric Association recommends it as therapeutic. Ask yourself, why?

            People who advocate circumcision always try to diminish it by using words and phrases like: “redundant” and “excess skin”. The circumcision itself is never a mutilation (which it clearly is), but “a snip”, “a trim” or some other nonsense. At the same time they attach miraculous, almost voodoo magic like health benefits and spiritual significance to the supposedly worthless piece of skin they contemptuously want to cut off.

            If the Hashem wanted a significant covenant, would he choose a worthless, redundant piece of skin to seal it, or something worth having? I wonder.

          • Observe

            By the end of the month, the American Association of Pediatrics will issue its new policy statement on circumcision. Task force members have stated it will say that the medical benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks. The revision, produced after a careful review of the evidence that’s been mounting over several years, included evidence about prevention of UTIs and related kidney problems, STI’s and related issues with fertility and cancer, the low risk of complication in infants compared to a higher risk of complications in older children and infants.

          • CountWestwest

            So far the AAP has not endorsed the practice, you only have doctors, like Ed Schoen, known as circumcision proponents, making noise in the press. The facts though, have not changed.

            Only 1 in 200 uncircumcised men will get a UTI as opposed to 1 in 5 women. The treatment for UTI’s is antibiotics, which have been around for a hundred years. According to the American Cancer Society there were a grand total of 1540 cases of penile cancer in the whole of the US in 2011 among 160 million men, including circumcised men. There were actually more cases of vaginal cancer. The rate of HIV is higher in circumcised men in 10 out of 18 African countries studied, and the rate of HIV is six times higher in the US than in Europe where the rate of circumcision is virtually 0% among non Muslims and non Jews. All other STD’s rates are also lower in Europe than in the US. As far as cervical cancer in women, the rate in Israel is 5.6 per 100,000, in the US it’s 5.7 per 100,000. In a country with a virtually 0% circumcision rate, Finland, it’s 4.5 per 100,000; Switzerland, 4.0 per 100,000; Greece 4.1 per 100,000. It has been known for a while that socio-economic factors are more significant when it comes to cervical cancer. Pakistan, a devoutly Muslim country has a rate of 18.5 per 100,000, which is the same as in Mexico. Clearly circumcision has nothing to do with cervical cancer, or HIV unless you cherry pick the data you want to look at, but not if you consider all of the data.

            As far as complication in children, what complications are you talking about that are more serious than death (over 100 in the US from circumcision), partial amputation and disfigurement? Are you thinking about phimosis, maybe? That’s treated with a steroid cream and usually is cured in a week.

            I find it funny how people in the US seem to think that foreskin is the leading cause of death around the world; how hospitals in Europe are filled with men getting adult circumcisions due to horrible infections, and women dying of vaginal diseases. All these things are nothing more than fantasies designed to make you feel better about your less than complete and optimal manly parts. Make no mistake about it.

      • ““If one day my son ends up wearing a shirt that reads “For God’s Sake My Penis Was Ruined,’ I will pay his therapy bills.”

        And she thinks that will be enough? Has she read any recent studies of
        the (in)effectiveness of talking therapies? Choppedliver doesn’t seem to
        need any therapy to recover from being given the choice to have part of
        his own genitals cut off. If, as in his hypothetical, 8-day olds were simultaneously rational adults who could ask for what they want (with or without the slap), nobody would have any problem about infant circumcision.

        And some men’s penises are literally ruined and no talking therapy will fix them. The Mogen Company made the Mogen Clamp, favoured for brit milah because it resembles the traditional barzel, until it was driven out of business by lawsuits worth millions from the families of several boys who had part of their penis heads crushed and cut off in Mogen Clamps.

      • AgainstCirc

        “I didn’t want to cut part of my penis off (albeit a small redundant part), but neither did I want to disregard my Jewish soul.”
        First, the foreskin is not a redundant part. It is a natural, functioning, sensitive part of the penis just like the clitoral prepuce on a female.
        But more importantly, what you wrote shows how much more meaningful it is to you to have consciously chosen to have your foreskin cut off in the name of something you personally believe. That’s how it should be. Mutilating someone else’s body does not give that person the choice. And yes, circumcision is genital mutilation.

  • Amit

    I’m a Jew from Israel and nothing pisses me off more than the fact I was circumcised as a baby.
    I hope to see the day when this practice is made illegal all over the world. Actually just seeing it successfully made illegal in at least ONE jurisdiction in the world would be a major improvement. This is sexism of the worst kind, where chopping off the genitalia of babies and boys is legal all over the world, while cuttings of any kind in female genitalia are made illegal regardless of cultural and religious background.

  • Steven Podvoll

    I’m a Jewish father, raising his son as a Jew. My wife and I are very active members of our synagogue. Our son loves G-d and Torah. If waiting until adulthood was good enough for Abraham (and possibly for Moses, by the way), it’s good enough for my little Moishele.

    Independent thought is itself a moral imperative in Judaism. Accordingly, the mitzvot are routinely over- & under- interpreted. The bris is merely one of 613. Doctrinaire focus on the one mitzvah, while freely interpreting much of the rest is anathema to Rabbinic traditions of emphasizing scholarship over mere dogma. I wish more Rabbis would interpret the bris as flexibly as so many of the remaining mitzvot. Devarim 13:1; look it up. It’s pretty clear that we are commanded to Torah in the literal sense, that *no* interpretation is allowed, no diminishment *nor* augmentation. So, how does, “thou shalt not boil a kid in it’s mother’s milk” become a complete prohibition on consuming animal flesh with dairy, to the point where most Orthodox Jews would probably refuse a friendly offer of chicken parmesan? In such a case, they would be either intentionally violating Devarim 13:1 or exhibiting ignorance to the fact that chickens aren’t mammalian! We all violate the mitzvot as proscribed in Devarim 13:1 and the learned among us then cite Oral Torah, the Mishnah, et.al, as license. I refuse to accept that Oral Torah is a dead “document”, closed to further intellectual achievement. IMO, what separates us from the Christians, what makes us a light unto the nations, is our continuous effort to build upon the work of past sages instead of retreating into pedantic study of that old oxymoron, revealed wisdom. Think of where we would be if Maimonides, et.al, did nothing more than regurgitate. We have Talmud, not Epistles, thank HaShem. We may observe Tisha B’Av, but I doubt most of us would actually want a return to the days of the Sadducees, before we even had Mishnah. So, either Torah is a work in progress or we commit ourselves to the the opposite of progress, i.e., regress. It seems to me that those who refuse to expand upon the wisdom of the past are inherently refusing to add to the wisdom of future generations. Speaking of our commitment to future generations, pardon a slight tangent into allegory…

    “A bird once set out to cross a windy sea with its three fledglings. The sea was so wide and the wind so strong, the father bird was forced to carry his young, one by one, in his strong claws. When he was half-way across with the first fledgling, the wind turned to a gale, and he said, ‘My child, look how I am struggling and risking my life in your behalf. When you are grown up, will you do as much for me and provide for my old age?’ The fledgling replied, ‘Only bring me to safety, and when you are old I shall do everything you ask of me.’ Whereat the father bird dropped his child into the sea and it drowned, and he said, ‘So shall it be done to such a liar as you.’ Then the father bird returned to shore, set forth with his second fledgling, asked the same question, and receiving the same answer, drowned the second child with the cry, ‘You, too, are a liar!’ Finally he set out with the third fledgling, and when he asked the same question, the third and last fledgling replied, ‘My dear father it is true you are struggling mightily and risking your life in my behalf, and I shall be wrong not to repay you when you are old, but I cannot bind myself. This though I can promise: when I am grown up and have children of my own, I shall do as much for them as you have done for me.’ Whereupon the father bird said, ‘Well spoken, my child, and wisely; your life I will spare and I will carry you to shore in safety.'”

    From a personal standpoint I would rather my son prioritize his commitment to my grandchildren and great grandchildren over his commitment to me and my forebears.

    In any case, the objective of all our mitzvot is to recognize, as did Hillel, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the commentary; go and learn.” Speaking of which, I think a reasonable person might indeed find it hateful to have their body violated in such a manner without their consent; they might quite reasonably consider it molestation for the purpose of involuntary mutilation. And Mohels who engage in Metzitzah B’peh are IMO guilty of reckless endangerment; babies have actually died from resultant, transmitted infections. And where do we draw the line on legally acceptable adult oral contact with infant genitalia? Feh! We should also bear in mind that mitzvot can conflict and should therefore require consideration of priorities. To use an extreme example, if the only way to save a life from the Shoah would have been to testify falsely, it seems to me obvious which should have taken precedence. If failing to circumcise violates our covenant with G-d, it simultaneously upholds both the requirement that our bodies must not be altered or marked as well as the prohibition against causing any living creature to suffer pain. In the final analysis, we Jews have many, far more meaningful ways of making our covenant with G-d and repairing the world. In my opinion, no innocent person should be subject to inessential pain or possibility of medical complications without their consent. Let’s finally shed the remnants of ancient priestly superstition and fully embrace Rabbinic Judaism in all it’s enlightenment.

    Frankly, I feel particularly irritated when those who don’t wear Tzitzit on all their clothes, men who are completely clean-shaven, women who refrain from monthly Mikveh immersions, those who borrow or lend at interest, those who refrain from sacrificing two lambs each day, et.al, pass judgement and make such a big deal about such a little piece of my little Moishele’s flesh.

    As for the medical benefits, they constitute specious rationalization at best. There are far more effective and rational ways to prevent STDs; using condoms, for example, is more effective by several orders of magnitude. First do no harm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumcision#Complications).

    Please don’t misconstrue my statements. I have *not* advocated for legal bans on infant circumcision. However, as a loving (Jewish) father, I personally reject the act of imposing circumcision on my own infant son. He can decide for himself when it’s time, thank you, and I feel confident he will find his own path towards Tikkun Olam.

    By the way, various sources including 1 Maccabees suggest that the original Brit Milah required only the tip of the foreskin to be cut, sometimes only poked with a sharp object so that a bit of blood was drawn, that it wasn’t until overreaction to modernism circa 140 C.E. which led to Peri’ah, i.e., complete amputation of the entire foreskin.

    • dolcineadelamantra

      torah shel ba peh.

  • This is a practice which is obviously going to have to die out at some point. As a lawyer, I would argue that the practice is beyond the scope & ambit of freedom of religion. We do not have the right to alter other people’s bodies in the name of religion – period. People can eat whatever religious foods they want, read religious texts, attend places of worship, etc. but they cannot put someone else’s bodily integrity at risk. There are an increasing number of Jewish men who are considering lawsuits for being circumcised. As always, it is the religious hierarchy which clings to the past and wants to impose its will on the rest of its adherents.

  • I’m Israeli, I’m Jewish and I have researched the subject of circumcision. As a result I did not circumcise my son and I know what cutting off the foreskin means in terms of physical damage, risk, complications and pain.
    In the information era, people’s eyes will eventually open to realize a simple truth: intact is better than cut. When you cut pieces of the body off, you damage it. Plain. Simple.
    I recently made a video about why intact is better.
    You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4J625rD8bo

    it’s in Hebrew with English subtitles

  • Email Me

    American men are such wimps to let their sons be subjected to this absurd surgery. If it were women tied down & cut, the Feminists would be howling all over the world. The male genitals are a cheap commodity. There is no argument too absurd for the circumcisers. They insult the appearance of the intact penis, claim that circumcision heals everything from body warts to HIV, and draw an illogical distinction between female & male genitals. It’s a barbaric practice, wrapped in pious b#!!$^!t.

  • Anthony Morris

    This is an argument like so many that will inevitably find itself on the wrong side of history. Tradition or not, nobody has the right to remove the foreskin from a defenseless baby. Any reasoning that defends male circumcision can also be used to defend female genital mutilation. It is indefensible. Like any freedom, freedom of religion has limits. One can’t expect that “anything goes” when it comes to religious freedom. Like it or not a baby has no religion. A baby cannot consent. Many rituals of the past are now conducted in a manner that celebrates the original intent, without having to follow through with the actual ritual. There is no medical reason to perform a circumcision on an infant and to actually conduct something like this solely for reasons of tradition or ritual is not in line with modern rationality.