Resources for Jewish Parents
Since the medical and hygienic merits of circumcision have now been disproved, little can be found to justify its continued practice by most American Jews.
Circumcision cannot be claimed as a symbol of Jewish identity. By Jewish law, any child born of a Jewish mother is a Jew. Furthermore, Judaism did not invent circumcision. According to Ashley Montagu, a renowned anthropologist, the practice was well-established in ancient Egypt over 6,000 years ago. The Muslim world also circumcises. Fifty-five percent of non-Jewish boys in the United States are circumcised. Who then, can claim circumcision as either the source of Jewish identity or of its strength?
Circumcision can not be redeemed by American Jews with medical or hygienic claims. According to Jewish law, circumcision simply cannot be justified for any reason other than as an act of faith. Circumcision performed in a hospital by a doctor does not meet the ritual standards required by Jewish law and is therefore invalid as a Bris Milah.
In Hebrew, the foreskin of the male is called the orlah. Whenever the term orlah is used in the Bible, it refers to a barrier standing in the way of a beneficial result. The Bible refers to a person’s resistance to holiness as the orlah of the heart. In Judaism, the foreskin came to symbolize all of man’s barriers to holiness.
Jews have had to acknowledge that the real barriers to their faith were the ones they themselves created or perpetuated. Changing these barriers to Judaism has involved Jews changing their traditions as well as themselves. This process began over 150 years ago and continues today. Bris Milah is only one of many traditions that has changed as Jews take personal responsibility for their faith.
A Bris Shalom Ceremony
a Ceremony without Cutting
by Norm Cohen
Director, NOCIRC of Michigan
Bris Shalom Ceremony Web
Bris Shalom Ceremony PDF
What about Religious Circumcision?
A NOCIRC of Michigan pamphlet with the answers to a common question:
Pamphlet: "What about Religious Circumcision?" PDF
The Jewish Circumcision Resource Center
Resources for Jews around the world who question circumcision
Bris Shalom Providers
Jewish leaders around the country who will perform a Bris Shalom ceremony
Counseling Couples in Disagreement about Circumcision: a Jewish Perspective
Director, NOCIRC - New York Hudson Valley
Norm Cohen on Bris Milah
- Modern-day Jews cannot justify circumcision on medical or social grounds--circumcision is a Jewish act of faith.
- Circumcision does not make a boy Jewish; by Jewish law, a son born to a Jewish mother is a Jew, even if he is not circumcised.
- There is a saying from the Talmud: “If you ask me before you do it, I’ll say “no”; if you tell me after the fact, I’ll say, “all right”.
- Moses Maimonides wrote in 1190, “Circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement.”
- Jews are disagreeing with the tradition and have been since the founding of the Reform movement, over 170 years ago. Many Jewish traditions have changed over time as Jews continue to take personal responsibility for their faith.
- Theodore Herzl did not circumcise his son.
- America is already a circumcising culture. Hence, neither assimilation nor intermarriage can be reduced by continuing circumcision.
- It is ironic that the last practice secular Jews cling to for claiming Jewish identity is the same practice performed by American non-Jews and Muslims.
- Sixty-percent of non-Jewish boys in the United States are circumcised. The entire Moslem world also circumcises. Who then, can claim circumcision as either the source of Jewish identity or of its strength?
- This symbol of Jewish “uniqueness” has indeed lost its uniqueness. Because of the meddling of American medicine, it has also lost its meaning as a sacred act.
- What began as an act of faith, now survives for many Jews on peer pressure in the locker room and old-fashioned, 19th century medicine.
- What many Jewish mothers are telling me is that they are coerced into circumcision by their Jewish husbands, their in-laws, and their parents. Rather than being a day of joy, the day of bris milah becomes for them an awful day of fear and regret.
Female Genital Mutilation
- Both circumcision and female genital mutilation raise the same human rights concerns: the rights of vulnerable children to physical integrity, self-determination, and security of person.
- For those who would dismiss this comparison by contrasting the degree of mutilation, U.S. law does not permit such distinctions. The slightest cutting of a girl’s genitals by her community is a felony.
- The Bris Shalom ceremony follows closely the traditional ceremony in the spirit of the Covenant of Abraham and lovingly welcomes a Jewish boy into the community of Jews while maintaining his bodily integrity and his human rights.
- As the American circumcision rate continues to drop, this controversy will become more of an issue in the Jewish community.
- NOCIRC will strongly challenge anyone in the Jewish community, including Jewish doctors and nurses, who make fraudulent health claims about circumcision.
- We would like to generate a dialog within the Jewish community surrounding the ethics of, and harm from, the surgery.
- I would like to call on the local mohalim to start documenting and publishing circumcision complication rates. These rates should then be disclosed to all parents in preparation for the procedure. Added to these complication rates should be various sexual problems reported in adulthood.
- I would like to ask the local rabbis if they would bar mitzvah Jewish boys if they are not circumcised. If not, then will rabbis start inspecting the genitals of all their bar mitzvah boys or should parents just keep their conscientious objection a secret?
Birmingham, MI 48012-0333