Jewish and Deciding about Circumcision
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Jewish and Deciding about Circumcision
My wife is due to give birth to a son. She is technically Jewish,
but has really been an atheist like I am ever since we met.
Neither one of us wants to circumcise our baby, because we think
it is wrong to put our baby through a religious ceremony when
neither of us IN THE SLIGHTEST BIT believe there is a god or that
religion is useful. Her parents have some different feelings
about this and her dad especially is acting like he will die of
heartbreak and be the shame of his family if his grandson doesn't
have a proper bris.
So, do we just ignore these worries of her parents? Once the
baby is in their arms are they going to just go gaga and forget
all about how they thought they would feel? Or is this going to
cause very long term feelings of guilt and regret? I'm very
interested to hear stories from other Jews who made the same
decision in the face of a heaping pile of guilt and what the
effect was on the long term parental relationships.
''Heaping pile of guilt'' is right! I am the technically Jewish
mother in this scenario, I have 2 boys, 6 and 3, and neither are
circumcised. When I told my parents originally I thought my
mother would faint. TO THIS DAY she still says ''they'll never
really be Jewish...'' etc. However, I talked with a Rabbi when I
was pregnant who told me that while circumcision is a Jewish
mandate, the only actual requirement is that if the mother is
Jewish then the children are Jewish. That didn't really convince
them, but I still use it as my counter-argument, now 7 years later.
You can have a bris without the snipping, though. Especially in
this area, you can find a progressive mohel who can ''go through
the motions,'' while you and your family have a great big party
with your 8 day old son. They can probably even do it without
mentioning god, call it a ''Naming Ceremony'' or something. That
way your Father in Law won't be the shame of his family but you
don't have to subject your child to something you don't agree
with. Everybody loves a party, right?
You're right, though, and my parents are crazy in love with both
of their unsnipped grandsons (even if my mother actually refers
to them as such). There has been no long term damage done to any
of our relationships. Mazel Tov!
Safe to ignore grandparents? Sure -- if they're anything like my
Jewish grandparents, and they sure sound like it, this is not the
first time they've been trying to tell you what to do and how to
do it, and it won't be the last -- probably you've already
accommodated them too much in the spirit of ''being nice to the
old folks'' and now you are worried they are going to eat you
alive. Wish my dad had had the guts to put the smack down on his
parents' meddling, and wished my mom had had the guts to put the
smack down on dad's wishy-washiness earlier than 30 years later.
It's your kid, not the grandparents. If you circumcise or not,
that's your business, not theirs, and if they have a problem with
it, you could tell them:
1. to pray for you
2. to call someone who cares
3. to write a letter to the editor
4. that you'll think about it.
You have GOT to set some limits now, and this WILL be met with
some resistance from the grandparents -- and your spouse, who has
grown up with them, and is accustomed to their domineering ways.
It'll ruffle some feathers, but their desire to see grandson
will win out in the end. On the other hand, if this is a
deal-breaker for them, frankly, you'll be glad they don't bother
you anymore -- who wants people like that in their lives?
Again with the circumcision!
I gave birth to a son 13 years ago, and felt similarly as you
and your wife. I thought circumcision was barbaric. The
grandparents didn't care, so we didn't do it. Now, I wish we
had. It is easier to take care of, and as my kids have gotten
older, rituals seem more important, and it doesn't seem worth
the strife it will cause the family. It sounds really important
to the grandparents in your case, and it represents something
powerful for them. Jews have been tremendously persecuted, and
the reason they are still around is because people have kept
the culture alive with things like circumcision. I also think
your son may wish he had been circumcized. I regret not doing
it, and perspective changes a lot once you have kids-if it's
that important to the grandparents, and there are health
reasons to do it (which there are), I advise you to do it. I
wish we had.
I was in a similar situation to you. I am a total non-believer
from a non-believer family, my husband is Jewish. I realize that
this technically makes our son not Jewish.
Personally I think circumcision is a good thing, so on the birth
of our son (our 1st child) there was no question this was the way
to go. I read a lot about different techniques etc. and was
really against the traditional at home bris, mainly for sanitary
reasons. However my husband REALLY wanted this, and his family
even more so. So we tried to set it up. However we found that
most Mohel's won't do the full ceremony unless both parents are
Jewish. In the end we had Dr. Berberich of the Berkeley
Pediatric Medical Group http://www.pedmedgroup.com who is also a
Mohel, do it at his office on the 8th day. This seemed to
satisfy the Jewish need somewhat and my needs, although I won't
say that my husband family have totally forgotten it didn't
happen, at least now they don't mention it. This may be a good
middle ground for you.
To my mind there is another big issue to a bris, especially if
it's your 1st child. There I was just given birth to this
wonderful, beautiful boy and all they wanted to talk about was
where to have this big party. I mean seriously, your tired, over
whelmed with emotion, and trying to look after something that
screams at you every 2 hours or so, not to mention that after a
circumcision you and the child will not be in the best of sorts.
The LAST thing you as a family will want to do it sit at a party
for hours, having to be nice to people, who are most likely
getting drunk. I would also add that while I'm pro-circumcision,
watching your child go through this has to be one of the worst
and most traumatic things I've ever had to do. And my husband
agrees on this point, he couldn't even watch.
What about having a bris without the cutting?
I can't imagine why you would have a circumcision if you really
don't want one. He's your baby, and you'll have to wash his penis
for several years, not them. Can you imagine feeling mad at your
parents every time you gave your baby a bath?
Whatever you do, don't give into their pressure. It's not their
kid, and it's not your belief system.
My son is uncut!
Hi A Johnson, the first thing for you to be aware of is that you
and your in-laws are talking about two different things - you
are talking "religion" and they are talking "belonging &
You don't have to be a God-believer to be Jewish. Many Jews
don't believe in God. For the Jewish world your wife
isn't "technically Jewish" she just Jewish. This is probably
what her parents think too.
The bris is the ceremony by which the baby enters into Jewish
community. Not performing the act that acknowledges the baby's
identity as a Jew may be what is distressing your father-in-
This is unlikely to end when they see the baby. In fact in
cases that I have seen, it intensifies as time passes. The
anxiety and grief can grow, spoken or unspoken. It is not
something you can explain away. For a person who sees
themselves as a Jew it is "breaking the chain" of generations.
I'd be happy to talk with you about how you might want to shape
your conversation with your in-laws. It won't cost you anything
to give it a try. I'm also happy to talk to your in-laws. They
need some support and guidance around how to deal with their
pain. No doubt they love you both and are looking forward to
I'm transitioning between offices so you can email me if you
like at dawn@BuildingJewishBridges.org
We are Jewish and consciously chose NOT to circumcise our son.
We didn't have the misfortune of having a family member freak
out about that, although my dear old grandfather complained.
PLEASE make this decision based on what is in your heart and
your wife's heart.
For the record, we are involved in the Jewish community and are
temple members. While most of the members' boys are
circumcised, there are a handful who are not (HOORAY!), and I
know LOTS of Jewish and part-Jewish families outside of shul
who are uncut. So your little guy and his Jewish foreskin will
NOT be alone!
In favor of Jewish foreskin
We didn't circumcise our son, despite his dad's family's active
jewish identity. Here's the thing, it all depends on the family
members -- if you've got a really rigid grandparent, they could
continue to make a really big deal out of it -- up to, an
including, cutting you off. We knew (based on the tolerance
shown to their wayward son in the past) that it might bother
them but they'd continue to engage fully.
None of this argues for caving in to really manipulative
relatives -- they'll never stop after winning one issue.
What we did was frame it that we were leaving it for the
grandson to decide (and grandma does say, from time to time,
that maybe he'll decide to get circumcised...
Next, we never left him with them when he'd need to have a
diaper changed and never left him naked in front of them (this
may not be practical in all situations).
And, we did other things, like teaching him by three to ask the
Passover questions in Hebrew (google it - they have it sounded
out) to give them something else to focus on. Getting books
about Jewish holidays, so he was knowledgable, etc.
Completely forgetting the religious aspect of circumcision, there are several
other valid reasons for circumcision of baby boys. Serious researchers in Aids
transmission issues have found that circumcised men have a much lower rate
of contacting HIV than uncircumcised men. It is felt that difficulties in keeping
the foreskin absolutely clear of (I am not absolutely sure of the spelling)
smegla may play a role. There are now long waiting lists to have the procedure
done in many African communities where boys are not usually circumcised as
babies or young boys. The long-term (ie. wives, girl friends) sexual partners of
straight, circumcised men have a considerably lower rate of cervical cancer
than those of uncircumcised men. If you decide on circumcision, be sure to
check references. Channan Feld of Berkeley, who is an orthodox moyel (a
person who performs circumcision), is probably the best around. If he doesn't
do non-religious circumcisions, he might be able to recommend someone
good who does.
I am a Jewish mother of a happy uncircumcised 2 yo. We have 3
more friends with boys who decided not to circumcise.
This debate between you and grandparents is probably the first
and not last about how to raise your child. But you are the
parents of this child and therefore, you get to make the
decisions, as painful they may be to the grandparents. My
parents-in-law found out about the fact almost a year later and
were pretty shocked and sad, but they survived. For many secular
Jews this is the one thing that they never question. For us,
messing up with our son's genitalia without permission was
invasive and painful more than what it meant to our Jewishness.
And the bottom line is that not circumcising is reversible,
circumcision is not.
I would recommend though, not to approach this issue by stating
you are ignoring the grandparents opinion, but by explaining how
you respect their opinion, understand their pain, but choose to
act otherwise because of your own beliefs. When you state that
you are respecting them, you can ask for the same respect. They
might not give it back, but then it's their choice.
And as for the practicality of the issue - no one in the extended
family has to know about this. Usually, if people don't talk
about this, it does not come up. There is really no place to feel
shame, because probably no one in the grandparents' circle will
know about this - when will the have an opportunity to carefully
check your son's penis anyways? The bottom line is that the
grandparents need to grow up into their role as observers and not
decision makers, as tough as it may be.
Hope you don't circumcise,
I didn't want to circumcize my son either, and my parents had a
fit about it. My son's father and I had agreed to raise him
Jewish, so that wasn't the issue (I am Jewish and his father is
not). What we did was have a naming ceremony on the 8th day.
The rabbi came to our house and filled out the Jewish birth
certificate with the baby's Hebrew names, we all ate and drank a
little, and we all, including my parents, were very happy. My
son is now 9 and in Hebrew school and is just as jewish as if he
were circumcised, as far as I'm concerned.
I do not know your in laws, but I know why your father-in-law feels the way he
does. The reason is because, whether right or wrong, this is what Jews do, and they
have been doing it this way for thousands of years. There are a million things that
you can do to be religious, but even for secular and cultural Jews, circumcision is
the norm. For Jewish boys, it really begins and ends here. If you can have a
shotgun Bar Mitzvah at 13, that would be even better, but a Bris is really expected.
Not having a Bris is basically unheard of. This is the covenant that Abraham kept
with G_d, and it is not taken lightly.
Once again, I do not know your in-laws, but I assume that they will go ga ga over
their new grandson. But, they may also harbor a grudge against you and your wife
for the rest of their lives. I can't say how that will play out. I also believe
would be very wrong to do something for the sake of the grandparents if you can't
stand to live with it.
Not sure I was much help here.
My husband and I are in a real bind. I am Jewish caucasian and
he is Korean-American and of Catholic origin (but not
practicing). We had a Jewish wedding and enjoy sharing many
Jewish rituals and holidays together. Our trouble now is that we
cannot agree on whether to circumcize our son or not. In truth,
I am myself not in agreement with the practice, but feel strongly
about a) giving my son a range of options in terms of his own
spiritual choices later on by starting him off in life as
circumcized, and b) providing him with a strong sense of Jewish
physical identity when he is around other Jews in his community -
he will already look physically different from most Jewish kids,
and I don't want him to be constantly teased about not being
circumcized. My husband feels that we should not be engaging in
a practice out of pressure to conform, just to avoid teasing.
I'm really wondering if anyone has experience with older Jewsih
kids, teens, or young adults who were not circumcized. Here in
the Bay Area, might it be less common to be uncircumcized?
Should we be basing our decision on the fear of being ostracized,
even if we don't believe in the practice?
Thanks for your thoughts,
Boy do I know how difficult a decision this is for you! I wrote a post
a little over a year ago on just this exact subject, I'm sure you can
find it in the archives, but I thought I'd respond anyways. I had so
much trouble dealing with my family on this issue, well, mostly my
mother, who was putting a lot of pressure on me to circumcise my son. I
had so many mixed feelings about it, and my husband is not Jewish, but
put the decision totally up to me, because he knew how loaded the issue
is in the Jewish community. I ultimately decided not to circumcise my
son, and I wrote a long letter to my mother explaining why I had come to
that decision. I just couldn't do it to my son, knowing there was no
medical reason for it, and it is now stated to be the parent's decision.
I think that it's mostly a 50/50 thing here in the Bay area. I also
think there are lots of Jewish families these days opting to keep their
sons intact. ACtually, I got about 20 posts in response to mine over a
year ago from families who had made the same decision, and I'm sure it's
even more prevalent now. There is a lot of good information on the Jews
Against Circumcision website, and I enjoyed the book ''Questioning
Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective'' by Ronald Goldman, Ph.D. Also, we
had a Bris Hayim ceremony at our house, which is basically the bris
without the circumcision part, officiated by Rabbi Familant who
practices somewhere on the Penninsula. I don't have his info on me but
if you want it I can email it to you. Feel free to email me if you want
further information on this, as well. Do lots of research, but
ultimately it is a very personal decision. I know how hard it it,
believe me! Best of luck and Mazel Tov!!
Something in what you wrote really stood out for me ''[I] feel strongly
about...giving my son a range of options in terms of his own spiritual
If giving your son options is of concern to you, how about giving him
the option to choose circumcision when he's older, and can make the
choice? He can always get a circumcision later, if he's feeling
ostracized and he feels that circumcision is important to him, but
circumcision is irreversable once it's done. Why not wait and see how he
feels when he's 8 or 10 (or older?) and can make that choice for
himself, knowing what is involved? Besides, how much time (and how soon)
is he going to be naked around other boys? I don't have a son, so maybe
I'm missing something around that point?
I am in the ''don't circumcise'' camp, which is probably obvious.
However, I hope I addressed your question sensitively, and didn't come
across as accusatory.
Good luck with your decision
Our opinion from the long term perspective was this: most people don't
have a problem with a man with a circumcised penis but some people, for
religious reasons, feel it is a must. If your son falls in love with
one of those people, he's in a for a painful emotional and physical
Hi, my son is 9 and like you, I am Jewish, my husband is not and we are
raising him Jewish. Our son is not circumcised. We are members of
Kehilla Community Synogogue and I know of at least 2 other boys my sons
age who are also not circumcised in the congregation. Also I am pretty
sure our rabbi officiates at baby namings without circumcision. So I
think here in the Bay Area your son will be in good company. I did feel
some pangs about not following the tradition but decided that this was
one of the traditions I disagreed with (along with other Jewish
traditions which I won't go into!) and that I want to pass along a kind
of Judaism that has to do with questioning and renewing tradition not
formulaicly following it. So far my son feels clearly Jewish. Good luck
with your decision.
You are not in agreement with the practice of circumcision and neither
is your husband. That is a big thing to think about! No wait, it's not.
You're already in agreement. :)
As far as pressure to conform, I agree with your husband on this one,
but even more so since it's not about conforming to fashion trends or
changeable things, but about something that is essentially a permanent
As far as giving him choices (which you brought up), if you leave him
intact, he can later make the choice to chop, but he gets no choice if
you chop at birth.
Being teased about his penis seems REALLY unlikely to me, unless I'm way
out of touch with society these days. In what day-to-day experiences
will he be showing his genitals to others?? Is this something schoolboys
I have noticed that beliefs around circumcision are a lot different
these days than when we were babies. People seem much more open to
either way, where previously there was a predominance to circumcise. I
am guessing that when he reaches sexual maturity, there will not be a
stigma associated with having an intact penis, and there may be just as
many boys intact as there are boys circumcised. I am guessing him being
ostracized is an imagined fear.
It is always possible to circumcise later, should he want this. I know
someone who was circumcised at age 19. I don't think it's possible to
get the skin back, however, if cut at birth. I don't think you should
base the decision on peer pressure or teasing.
It's too personal of a choice to let those things influence it.
You have to make the decision based on what you feel is right (whichever
way that is). Your strong feelings of Jewish physical identity will of
course influence this, although I know that you are Jewish if your
mother is, therefore he will already have the proper lineage stuff,
regardless that he is bi-racial.
My situation as a Jewish woman adopting a 9-month old Hispanic baby boy
who came to me uncircumcised is a different from yours, but my father's
wisdom is still very relevant. As he ages, my dad has become more
observant and has been taking talmud studies for the past 8 years or so
just out of curiosity and a desire to understand things better. He told
me that Moses wasn't circumcised (remember his mother floated him down
the river to be recovered by an Egyptian woman who raised him as her
own?) and Moses's Jewish wife offered a ritual animal foreskin of some
kind to mark his Jewish covenant with God.
This was perfectly acceptable to God at the time, and my dad sees no
reason to believe that my son would be any less Jewish in God's eyes or
in our community's eyes than any other boy.
Turns out there are many Jewish men advocating for non- circumcised
covenant. See if you can read almost any issue of the Jewish magazine
Tikkun for the ongoing conversation.
My son is now six, by the way, and came to me just the other day saying
that I had forgotten to have his penis cut off when he was a baby. We
talked about the foreskin and why some boys have it cut off and some
don't (his non-Jewish dad and all his Jewish male cousins are
circumcised, so he knows the difference), and he seemed perfectly
content to be intact. I don't know long-term how he'll deal, but my
dad's story about Moses has helped me out of more than one conversation
with others in my family!
May your son be healthy and bring many blessings to you and your family.
Happy Mom of Happy Son
If you are intending to raise your child jewishly, he will have an
easier time if he's circumcised. For religious (conservative, modern
orthodox) jews it's still a bottom line. There's only one boy that I'm
aware of in my daughter's group of jewish friends (preschool,
supplementary religious school) who isn't circumcised. I have a daughter
so didn't have to make this decision, but from the circumcisions of
friends' babies it has not seemed particularly hard on the baby(hard on
the parents, though).
My sons are 19 and 22 and they were both circumsized. Their father
is a non-practicing Jew (I'm not Jewish) and they have a very
Jewish-sounding last name. They identify as Jews even though they never
attended synagogue nor were they bar mitvahed. They have reported no
problems or misgivings about being circumcised, nor have we, the
parents. The very few times we have talked about their being circumcised
they told me that some of their friends are, some aren't, what's the big
The one idea I had about your question, though, was if your son grows up
in a more Jewish culture than my sons did, and falls in love with a
religious Jew. As it happened, my oldest son went away to college in a more
conservative state, and fell in love with a very orthodox Jewish girl.
I liked her a lot and thought their relationship was a good one. They
were together for 3 years. She told him from the start that he would
have to convert to Judaism if their relationship was to get more serious
(because I, the mom, am not Jewish so therefore he isn't either). He
ended up making the decision that conversion was something he was not
willing to do. If he hadn't been circumcised, I have no doubt this would
also have been a condition for his girlfriend. And knowing my son, I'm
sure this would have been a deal-breaker. In my experience, teens and
young men are not exactly wildly enthusaistic about the idea of adult
circumcision. So, it's just something to think about. I never had any
expectation that my sons would marry Jews -- it's fine if they do and
fine if they don't. But if you do have this desire for your son, then it
might be worth it to think about what happens when he's in his 20's and
in love with a young woman like my son's girlfriend.
Not a Jewish Mother
From your message, it sounds like you are concerned about leaving
options open for your son. From that perspective, not circumcising him
leaves the most options open - after all, he can always have it done
later if he wants, but on the other hand, there is no way for him to
undo it later.
I am Jewish, and we decided not to circumcise our son. We got some
grief about it from my parents, but made the decision all the same. I
think that, at least around here, circumcision is no longer a strong
indicator of Jewish identity - I think 3/4 of the boys I know that are
my son's age are not circumcised (some Jewish, some not). Our son is
only 3 right now, so I don't think he has even noticed the difference,
but when he asks, we'll just tell him that some people choose to do it
and some don't, that we chose not to do it because we didn't like the
idea of it, but if in the future he wants to have it done, he can and
we'll support him. I feel like my son's Jewish identity will be based
on feeling comfortable in a community and knowing the prayers and
rituals, rather than on who is circumcised and who is not.
I want to post a correction to a previous response. Someone wrote that
her father had told her, ''Moses's Jewish wife offered a ritual animal
foreskin of some kind to mark his Jewish covenant with God.'' The
passage in question is Exodus 4:24-26 and it
reads: ''At a night lodging on the way, God met him [presumably Moses]
and sought to kill him. Zipporah [Moses' wife] took a flint and cut off
the foreskin of her son and she touched it to his [Moses'] legs and she
said, 'You are a bloody bridegroom to me!' When he [God] left him
[Moses] alone, she said, 'A bloody bridegroom in regard to the
I've researched this passage as a grad student in Jewish Studies and
presented two papers at national conferences on it. The sources debate
who it was that gets circumcized, even considering that ''her son''
refers to Moses himself (rather than the recently born Eliezer, although
since Egyptian royalty was circumcized this is unlikely) and there are a
number of different explanations offered as to why the circumcision
wasn't done in the first place (have time for a few stories?). I don't
recall ever seeing anything about an ''animal foreskin'' being a
''substitute''. I welcome a reference to such an interpretation, but it
sounds to me like either the poster or her father are confusing the
substitution of a ram in the story of the binding of Isaac with this
story. It's pretty clear that _someone_ isn't circumcised, that God
threatens Moses' life because of it, and that God is appeased by the
blood of the circumcison.
This is all a digression from the original question, but I wanted to
point it out because I see a number of claims about Judaism,
''historical circumcision'', and the like from the no-circ folks that
are either not accurate, or theories that are passed off as fact.
There are many liberal Jews in this area who have chosen not to
circumcise. There are many Russian Jews and some European Jews who
aren't circumcised. Kids don't have the same hang-ups around the issue
as we grown-ups do. We circumcised our sons because it had meaning for
us, and we made a commitment to make it meaningful for our sons. If it
is not meaningful to you, if you can't make the commitment to have it be
meaningful to your son, then don't. My sons know they are circumcised
because they are Jewish. They know that some Jewish boys aren't in the
same way that many of the Jews we know (including their grandparents)
don't keep Kosher (we do). They also know that some non-Jewish boys are
circumsized because there are _some_ parents and _some_ doctors who
_believe_ is is healthier.
Hello to all! I am a soon-to-be mother of a boy who was raised
in a Jewish home, attended a conservative congregation growing
up, had a bat mitzvah, but in general my family is not very
religious. As an adult, I only practice Judaism on the major
holidays, and mostly attend services at Jewish renewal
congregations, but am not a member anywhere. My husband is not
Jewish, yet does not practice any other form of organized
religion. We both consider ourselves spiritual people, and pull
from many different spiritual traditions in our lives to add
meaning and tradition. We would like to expose our son to his
Jewish heritage, as well as other forms of spirituality. The
issue of circumcision has been a major one for me for the past
several months, since I found out the child I am carrying is a
boy. I have several friends (non-jews) who had boys and did not
circumcise them, and I am very aware of the medical arguments
for and against circumcision. I think that if I didn't have any
pressure either way, I'd probably decide not to circumcise my
son, because I don't think I could put him through that for the
sole reason that he is Jewish. However, what I didn't prepare
for is the strong pressure I am getting from my mother, who will
not stop telling me that it is very important to her that we
have our son circumcised. She doesn't even care if we have a
bris, she just wants us to get him circumcised, because if we
don't, he would be the only male in the family who is not. I
guess what I need is some advice from other Jewish parents who
decided not to circumcise their sons, if they had ''alternative''
ceremonies in leui of a normal bris, and how they may have dealt
with family pressures and general comments about their
decisions. I'm having a hard time even imagining how to tell my
mother/family if I decide not to circumcise my son, even though
that is where I am leaning right now. Any advice is greatly
I am Jewish, and we chose not to circumcise our son. For us,
the family pressure didn't last too long. My parents were
sceptical but are generally very good about being hands-off
since they know that our parenting style is way different than
what they would do. What I was really surprised at was that my
sister was ADAMANT that we HAD to circumcise. We held firm,
and told her (in a non-confrontational way) that we thought it
would be cruel, and that the research did not support it being
medically beneficial. She backed off eventually and doesn't
On the bigger issue of family pressure about parenting
decisions... we definitely get it from both sides, about
various issues (my parents don't understand that we don't want
our son to have EVERY toy in the world, my husband's mom thinks
I'm doing my toddler a disservice by still breastfeeding). We
are just firm - this is what we want to do, and thanks for the
advice but we're doing it differently.
I don't know if this constitutes advice or not, but I'm jewish,
my husband has some jewish heritage, his mother converted, and I
chose not to circumcise my son. I did get tearful pleas and some
reprimand, much advice and some initial regret - being across the
continent and having caller i.d. assisted in softening the blows.
I suppose if it hadn't been a personal characteristic of mine to
bunk tradition, it would have been more difficult. I know several
other Bay Area jews that didn't circumsize their sons. I think
it's more common than you think. I'm sure there are naming
rituals outside of the traditional offerings, perhaps someone on
the network will offer some up. I don't feel that my son is less
of a jew, than his circumcised cousins. He has been exposed to
the tradition and has more passion for all of it than any of us.
He is not yet 4 and sang the 4 questions this passover.
I am a Jewish woman raised in a fairly nonobservant household.
My partner is a completely assimilated Jewish man whose mother
didn't identify as Jewish at the time he was born and didn't
circumcise him. We chose not to circumcise our son despite
pretty heavy pressure at the time from some family members,
including my mother-in-law (!), who felt that he ''wouldn't be
Jewish'' unless circumcised. We told critics that we would
agree to disagree with them, that we were the people who were
supposed to make the decisions like this, and that if he really
wanted to have a circumcision later he could get one himself
(with anesthetic!). When he was 3 weeks old we had a naming
ceremony where we explained his name and everyone held the baby
and said a wish for him, and it felt wonderful to have our
community gather and help launch our son.
I did ask a rabbi (Reconstructionist) about it later and she
said of course males can be Jewish even if uncircumcised. It
has been helpful to have that information sometimes in
responding to comments. As far as the family stuff, it was
hard, but when we decided the same thing about our second son
the naysayers didn't bother us. And all the relatives love the
Good luck with your decision.
been there, more or less
i was circumcised as an infant without my permission, and so i'm solidly in the camp
that says don't do it. however, being jewish is the one and only valid exception i can
think of. how about allowing your son to make his own decision, perhaps around
the time of his bar mitzvah? i would suggest that it becomes a much more
meaningful and symbolic event if he chooses it for himself. non-religious
conformity doesn't sound like a good reason to deprive your son of his body as it
was created, and it's not like the window of opportunity closes if you wait. it can
always be done, but it can never be undone. just remind your mom know that his
foreskin belongs to him and not to her or even you.
I know that Sara Shendelman at Chochmat HaLev does really lovely
Jewish baby naming ceremonies and is glad to do them for a boy
(with no circumcision) as well as a girl. Friends of mine who
thought they were having a boy found that this plan appeased the
parents who wanted a bris. Although if what bugs your mom is only
the physical part, who knows. Another thing she could consider is
that he can always have one later (another thing entirely, but
common in other places) if he wants to. We did decide to
circumcise, and I'd be happy to talk to you about why if you are
interested (i feel very good about our decision)-- but ultimately
you really need to go with your gut feeling about it-- and that's
sounding like a no. Just remember to be calm and loving when you
talk to your mom! shosha
I could have written your message 5 1/2 years ago, except I
didn't know until birth whether I was having a boy or a girl.
Though I certainly had an earful from my parents ahead of time,
they couldn't pressure me that much without knowing the sex of
the baby. (That and the fact that they were 3000 miles away,
and I could just hang up the phone!) Their arguments about
having a Bris just didn't hold up for me, plus on the West coast
about 70% of baby boys are NOT circumcised, so I knew he would
hardly be an oddball growing up with an uncircumcised penis.
I decided ahead of time to arrange to have a baby naming
ceremony, in our home, on the eighth day after the birth. I was
in grad school at the time (not in the Bay Area), and not a
member of a temple, but I got the name of a rabbi who was
accostomed to dealing with interfaith couples. He came to the
house, did a nice ceremony with a few friends and my parents,
and gave us a beautiful certificate with our son's Hebrew name.
My parents made a donation to his temple, and all were happy.
My parents ended up being very happy with the naming ceremony
(and they got their ''bris-fix'' with my sister's two boys in the
last three years), and frankly I think they were surprised that
there could be a religious ceremony without the bris -- with
three daughters, they'd never had a naming ceremony for any of
My advice is, do what feels right for you. Five years later, my
parents havn't mentioned anything to me about it since, and my
son is so far unaware that he is the only known uncircumcised
member of my family for generations.
Congratulations on thinking through this matter. I just want to
say that because your son will be Jewish, being born of a Jewish
mother, there is no medical reason to circumcise a newborn. I am
glad that you are considering your son's needs. The needs of
family members about what they want you to do is not as
important as what you need to do as a parent of your own child.
I have 5 Jewish women friends who have 6 sons between them, all
intact (not circumcised). That was a choice they made, some
against the wishes of their families. One is a physician, one is
a registered nurse. The alternate to a bris is called a Brit
Millah, a ''ceremony without cutting.'' I wish you luck and a
healthy baby. You can get more information from
Ironically, it was my husband's Jewish (but not religious)
parents who were fully supportive of our decision not to
circumcize, and my mother who was raised Episcopalian, was the
one who objected, saying she thought intact penises ''look funny.''
Essentially, the decision is yours and your husband's. When you
change your son's diaper, will you be feeling guilty when you
are reminded of his circumcision or will you be happily
reaffirming your decision not to circumcize? And as for your
mother's saying that he will be the only one in the family left
intact, well, someone's got to be first, right?
This is probably only the first of many issues where your
parents' views will be different from yours and you will have to
make a decision and stick to it. Good luck in your resolve.
I have a 5 year old Jewish boy (father not Jewish) who is not
circumcised. It was a very difficult decision for us as well.
My partner was very opposed to circumcision and I was
concerned that my child would not feel Jewish if this ''holy
covenant'' was not made (and of course, every Jewish boy is
circumcised.) I decided that my son's relationship to
Judiasm was the most important thing to me and his being
circumcised did not determine his identification as Jewish.
Certainly, many Jewish men are circumscised and feel no
attachment to otheir heritage.
So, we have raised our son with Judiasm, but without
circumcsion. We did have a beautiful bris, he attended the
Jewish Community Center preschool and Camp Kee Tov in
the summer. He is now participating in a weekly
religious/Hebrew school class. He is well rooted in his
Jewishness and has not yet figured out that his penis looks
any different than many of his friends or his father's. When
and if he does ask, I will feel comfortable explaining our
reasons for our decision.
My only lingering concern is if he someday has a Jewish
sexual partner for whom circumcision is important. My hope
is that more and more Jewish families will opt to leave their
sons intact and there will be a normalizing effect.
My husband is Jewish and I am not, but am committed to raising
our son as a Jew (I am not affiliated, and consider myself an
agnostic, but with connections to many spiritual traditions). I
did not want my son circumcised (for many reasons, the pain,
loss of sensitivity, his rights of sovereinty over his own
body), but my husband did. We had a very hard time coming to a
decision, but decided finally not to circumcise. One text that
really helped with our decision was ''Covenant of Blood'' by
Lawrence Hoffman. It is not a pro or anti-circumcision book but
a scholarly text on the public meaning of circumcision within
judaism, with a lengthy historical discussion on the origins and
scriptual justification for circumcision. I highly recommend
reading it. The pressure from the family was intense, but having
read the book helped my feel confident putting forth my position
(it is written by a prominent Jewish rabbi and scholar, well
respected). We wanted to do something in lieu of a bris, but
hadn't made any solid plans before the birth. After the birth I
felt intensely that I wanted my son to have an eighth day
covenantal ceremony that didn't involve cutting, but instead
substituted some metaphor for the cutting, just as the cutting
of the foreskin seemed to have been substituted for an animal
sacrifice early in the days of the temple. We scrambled to find
a rabbi who would do this (rabbi meryam, who attends Chochmat
HaLev, I think - if you want her email post again and I will try
and find it for you), and the ceremony was absolutely beautiful,
very profound. My husband and I both felt that the core of the
ceremony is a welcoming into the covenant, and it was so
wonderful to be able to participate in it without dreading what
was coming. The ceremony ended with the rabbi cutting a ribbon
that was tied around my son's chest. Either way you go there are
options within Judaism that will support you. But I am very
happy with the choice we made.
Both my husband and I are Jews who were raised in households
with a strong cultural sense of Jewish heritage but very little
religious observance. As adults,we observe more Jewish holidays
than we did as children, but for us they are cultural, not
religious celebrations (our spirituality lies elsewhere). When
our son was born, we decided not to circumcise him, both because
we didn't see any reason to (I'm sure you're familiar with the
arguments against, so I won't reprise them here)and because it
seemed weird to perform such a huge and irrevocable act on
behalf of a religion that we didn't feel much spiritual kinship
What amazed us was the huge fits thrown by both our mothers, who
even objected to the fact that we posted a picture of our
diaperless baby on our website, revealing his uncircumcised
penis to the world (a friend who is anti-circ congratulated us
for making an anti-circ ''statement'' by posting the picture --
we'd just thought it was a cute photo.)
Even our pediatrician, a Jew, got into the act, demanding to
know what would happen if our son decided he wanted to be a
rabbi. A close friend, who, as a doctor, counsels her patients
that she sees circumcision as elective surgery with all the
attendant risks, ended up circumcising her own son because of
the pressure that came from both sets of Jewish grandparents,
none of whom even make it to temple on High Holidays. She cried
all the way through the bris. So the pressure you're getting
sounds pretty typical.
All I can tell you is, as unhappy as both grandmothers were at
the time, it blew over pretty fast, and by the time they held my
son in their arms for the first time, the state of his penis was
pretty far from their minds. I've picked and chosen among every
other aspect of Judaism, so I feel fine about having charted my
own course on this one. And my son (now 5)has never once asked
why his penis looks different from his dad's. I encourage you to
make the choice that feels right to you -- this won't be the
first time that your mom expresses disappointment or disapproval
over some parenting choice you make, believe me. But in the end,
you're the mom, and if you're doubtful about whether you made
the right choice, you'll enjoy the bris about as much as my
doctor friend did.
A Jew Who Didn't Circumcise
While we ended up caving into the pressure and circumcising both
of our sons, we did it with much misgiving and refused to
celebrate the circumcision. We had them both circumcised in the
hospital with no ceremony and instead celebrated their birth and
entry into the community in an alternative ''brit'' ceremony in
our back yard with our friends and family.
''Brit milaS (known also as ''bris'') literally means the
of circumcision. In the letter we wrote to each of them - and
which we read aloud to our guests - we explained than in our
experience, too much emphasis has been placed on the
circumcision and too little on the covenant. Thus, in keeping
with our attempts to re-examine traditions which have
become Rtaken for grantedS, we articulated a covenant between
each of our sons and his world, which included us, his extended
family, his community and the world at large. (If you would like
a copy of the covenant we wrote, email me and i'll send you
It was also amazing for us to articulate, first to each other,
and then to those close to us, our principles and ideology of
being parents and raising people in this world.
It was a very short but, if I may say so myself, a beautiful and
very touching ceremony (that also seemed to be the opinion of
those who attended). But most importantly it was a way for us to
retain what we felt was valuable in our tradition (the idea of a
special covenant between a newborn and his world) while infusing
it with content that reflected our own values and was unique to
who we are.
It also made the bitter pill of caving into the circumcision
easier to swallow.
Much joy and happiness to you. ben
I am Jewish and my husband is not. We chose to not circumsize
our son and I have to say I have very mixed feelings. It was
incredibly difficult to separate out my true feelings from the
feelings of disappointing various family members. I had many
sleepless nights about it and it has taken a few years for me to
accept our decision. these were some of my concerns at the time:
While I know the trend in places like Berkeley is not
circumsizing, that may not be true everywhere else in California
and what if we move? Or what if he decides that he wants to
practise in a more religious way and will then face the decision
about whether to have it done. Also, I worried about his
acceptance among boys if he went to Jewish camp or school.
Ultimately those worries faded away but they do lurk in the back
of my mind since our son is only 4 and we haven't had to face
Before we decided I spoke with the rabbi at Temple Sinai in
Oakland and asked whether or not our son would be considered
jewish if he was uncircumsized. The rabbi told me that while he
would be Jewish, he would not be able to be buried in a Jewish
cememtary because he would not have been consecrated to God. I
decided I could live with that. There's obviously more to it
than that in terms of the religious aspects and you may need to
pursue that in a deeper way to figure out how much it means to
And then there's the whole family side of the decision. It came
as a complete surprise to me who in my family had a hard time
with it. I grew up in a pretty atheistic and non-practicing
family, from grandparents on down. We celebrated Passover and
Channukah with very little religious context. Only my younger
cousins had bar/bat mitzvahs. It made it easier that my mom was
supportive (and continues to send me articles supporting the
decision). And the relatives who were critical, I listened to
and since then we've never talked about it (my dad &
grandparents). I do feel a bit awkward when my son prances
around naked when they're around, but I figure it's their issue
and not mine now.
over the regrets
For me, it boils down to giving your child the choice to be who he wants
as an adult. Adult circumcision is extremely painful. If you circumcise
your son, he can choose a religious life or not (there is no orthodox or
conservative wings that I know that will accept a person without this
covenant). If you do not circumcise your son, you've made the choice for
him for the rest of his life: he can never subscribe to an orthodox
religion. For me, the choice was easy: I didn't want to force my son to
live MY life after he was an adult (we are not orthodox). Given that there
were no true adverse issues related to it, I went with the circumcision.
Now he can do what he wants.
I recently had the same decision to make leading up to the birth of our
son. I'm from a very similar background as yours (conservative
synagogue, bat mitzvah, etc) and married to a non-Jew. We did not
know the sex of our child but figuring it was a 50/50 chance that we'd
have a boy we discussed the circumcision issue extensively before the
birth. If I had been married to a Jew I probably would have circumcised
without really giving it much thought but my husband was very much
against the idea. I came to agree that I did not want to alter my son right
after his birth, and for us, this was very much the right decision. I feel
that just as I pick and choose what Jewish practices I adhere to (I don't
keep kosher, but I celebrate the major holidays) while continuing to
consider myself Jewish, my son can be a Jew without being
circumcised. We avoided the issue with my folks by not mentioning the
topic until he was born, but in retrospect I probably would have
addressed the issue earlier and saved myself from having to explain
why we were not having a bris in a post partum fog 2 hours after the
birth. In the end it was my husband who had a long, frank discussion
with my parent on the subject, explaining our decision, allowing them to
express their concerns and ultimately making them realize that
circumcision is not a forgone conclusion anymore, no matter what your
My advice - if you don't want to circumcise - don't. Your parents will get
used to the idea & will soon move on to giving you their other
(unwanted?) parenting advice.
Good luck and congratulations.
I recommend going to a series of discussions about circumcision
at the Berkeley Jewish Community Center on Tuesday, June 1 &
Wednesday, June 9 7:30pm
The Circumcision Debate: For centuries Brit Milah, ritual
circumcision had been the ultimate affirmation of Jewish
identity, but recently a growing number of Jews are leaving
their sons uncircumcised. As part of this on-going dialogue we
are presenting two workshops exploring the arguments for and
Tuesday, June 1, 2004 7:30 Circumcision: The Covenant of Brit
Join Rabbi/ Mohel Chanan Feld and Rabbi Yehuda Ferris for an
exploration of the covenant, tradition and medical relevance of
circumcision as a powerful and enduring Jewish life cycle
Wednesday, June 9,7:30 Circumcision? Questions, Concerns and
Alternatives Growing number of Jews view circumcision as a part
of Jewish law that they can no longer accept. Join Rabbi Kai
Eckstein and Dr. Mark Reiss for an informative discussion
focusing on questions about ritual circumcision and an
alternative naming ceremony Brit Shalom - designed to bring
baby boys into the covenant.
1414 Walnut ST
For information call:
(510) 848-0237x112or www.brjcc.org
I've been there! I don't know how helpful my experience will be
for you, because I didn't have the issue of pressure from my
family, but I'm posting because I want you to know that there
are lots of other people who've been on the fence - sometimes it
seems like there are only people who are solidly on one side or
the other on this issue.
I have never agonized over anything in my life so much as this
choice. (Of course, it didn't help to be postpartum and
suffering crazy hormone swings...) Before my son was born, I
had decided to circumcise him. I am Jewish; my husband is not;
my Jewishness pretty much consists of celebrating Passover every
year, and I wanted very much to link my son with his Jewish
history, and have his birth be the beginning of being more
And then he was born. And I began to doubt. I called everyone I
knew, and a whole lot of people I didn't, and talked it over for
hours. I cried and cried and cried. My choice changed every
day. The party was planned, our friends were invited, the rabbi
was scheduled. Exactly twelve hours before the rabbi would've
come (the last time I could reach him) I called him off, holding
my breath to keep from crying on the phone. My husband stayed
up all night and wrote the most beautiful ritual I had ever
seen, incorporating all the things that I'd wanted to get from
the circumcision -- connection to family and Jewish history,
welcoming into the community, making pledges to each other,
giving him a Hebrew name -- and in the morning we performed it
with all our friends, who had bravely gathered not knowing
whether they were attending a bris or a non-bris. It was one of
the happiest days of my life and I have never once regretted our
choice after that night-before. (My son is now three and a
You will have to make your own choice, and I am behind you
completely either way. If you happen to choose the same way we
did, and would like to know more about the ceremony we did, I'd
be happy to share it with you. (Our midwife took a copy and I
believe makes it available to clients of hers who are struggling
with the same difficult choice -- see, you are not alone!)
Are there Jewish and/or interfaith couples out there who
have struggled with the circumcision issue? We would be
interested in hearing about your decision making process.
Were you initially opposed to the idea, but ended up doing
it? What factors particuarly influenced your decision? Did
you decide not to circumcise your Jewish son? If so, did you
encounter resistance from your family and/or religious
Please do not send general arguments either against or for
circumcision for Jews, as we have studied and thought
about the issue extensively. We have also read the website
postings, and at this point are most interested in hearing
from other Jewish families who have had a difficult time with
this major decision.
We are an ''Interfaith'' marriage and did circumsize our son via a
bris with the amazing Chanan Feld. I use quotation marks
around ''Interfaith'' because I am a Jew by choice and my husband,
while admitedly Jew-ish, is not. I felt strongly that as a
convert I am under particular duty to observe basic Jewish
covenants, circumcision being particularly important. My husband
supported my decision, even though he himself is not circumsized
(he even actively participated in the bris as I sat blubbering
in the bedroom).
Almost three years later, my son has made zero remarks about any
differences in appearance between his penis and his daddy's, and
when he does, a simple, ''You're Jewish and Daddy's not,'' will
Good luck in whatever you decide.
I appreciate your asking for feedback about this; as you well
know, feelings run very strongly on both sides of the issue. My
partner and I are both Jewish and very involved in our
synagogue, and we did not circumcise our son. In addition to the
frequently cited issue about doing unnecessary violence to an 8
day-old boy, we did not want to participate in sustaining the
tradition of having a powerful, historic tribal ritual for
welcoming boys only. As you know, for those of us who are
strongly Jewish identified and affiliated, this is a very big
decision to make. We understand that there will be consequences
throughout our son's life, and we are prepared to deal with
them. But what outweighs that by far is that, ironically, it
feels like we did something powerfully covenantal with our son -
committing ourselves to not doing violence against him, to
accepting and treasuring him the way he was created, and to not
compromising our basic beliefs at the beginning of his life. The
sign of that covenant is the intact-ness of his body, and it is
a daily reminder of the covenant we've made. I wish you well in
making - and coming to peace with - this difficult decision.
I'm Jewish and my husband is not although he has agreed to having
our children raised Jewish. We definitely went through a very
intense decision process around circumcision when I was pregnant
with our first child, who turned out to be a girl.
My husband is circumcised but did not feel that his son should
necessarily be circumcised. In fact, he started out feeling very
strongly that we should not circumcise. I, being Jewish, and
knowing that my parents would be probably be devestated if we
didn't have our son circumcised, was very torn. I felt that I
needed other reasons to feel that it was a justifiable procedure.
We started out emailing each other articles (with snide comments
prefacing them!) at work. I was sending pro-circumcision articles
and he was sending con. This went on for a while and then we
started to have more emotional conversations about it. He had
been to a couple brit milah's for my nephews and didn't enjoy the
experience, to say the least. I was having feelings of guilt,
obligation etc. We ended up deciding to have the circumcision in
the hospital and then having a symbolic bris/baby naming at a
later time. As I mentioned before, we had a girl.
3 months ago we had our second child, a son. Without much
discussion this time, we had our son circumcised in the hospital
when he was a day old. I've had lots of feelings around it and
would be happy to share them with you if you're interested.
Please let me know. It's certainly a very difficult decision and
also a very permanent one. I'm still very torn but honestly think
that we would probably make the same decision again.
Best of luck.
After much thought, research and discussion, we decided not to
circumcise our son.
After all our learning it felt to us that the practice was
archaic. Even our Rabbi agreed that our son could have a
covenant with god in other ways.
I was surprised at many people's reaction. Only one family
member, who is actively Jewish gave us any slack. She just
believed strongly that we must do the bris.
The others who gave us a hard time were not even actively
Jewish, They sometimes do a little something for the holidays,
but have little commitment. We pretty much pushed the comments
aside by stating we did what our pediatrician, Rabbi and
ourselves believe is right. Eventually they gave up.
We were concerned about the issue of looking different ''down
there'' but found many of our friends sons and even our closet
young cousin are not circumcised.
This is a tough decision. I hope you are able to discover what
you think is right and to go with it.
Best to you in your decision.
We are a Jewish couple expecting a son in May, so I have also
given some thought to this question and will be interested in what
others have to say. We have decided not to circumcise. It was a
fairly difficult decision, which has been met with some resistance
from my family. My husband and I are barely-practicing Jews from
familiies with very secular tendencies. It seems that there isn't
a huge commitment in our families to *practicing* Judaism, though
both sides are very identified as Jewish and very interested in
Judaism as cultural and ethnic heritage. I figure that if our
families do so little to practice Judaism, why should we do
something we feel is extreme to demonstrate our (or our son's)
affiliation? When my parents bring up the covenant with God as a
reason to do it, it sounds pretty ridiculous, given their lack of
demonstration of a belief in God in any other area of their
The most compelling arguments against, for me, are:
* I don't have much respect for tradition for tradition's sake. I'd
rather be among those to stop an unhealthy or ill-advised
* It is not a trivial piece of skin you are removing, but a sheath
that covers the entire penis, which for an adult male is a
significant piece of skin, full of nerve endings and an integral
part of the sex organ. I have been surprised to find that people
who have circumcised their own sons have been unaware of what
exactly they're removing when they circumcise--
which fuels my concern that a tradition is being perpetuated with
a kind of thoughtlessness perhaps only possible because it's such
a personal or embarrassing or taboo topic
* It's not important to us that the boy's penis resemble his
father's (I don't get this argument at all)
* It seems to me more and more parents are choosing not to
circumcise, so being different from one's peers won't be a big
issue for boys born now, if it ever was. I haven't encountered or
read about anyone who says as an older boy or teen or adult he had
a hard time because he wasn't circumcised and thus different from
his peers--why are people so concerned about this? I do think
about my son going someday to a predominantly Jewish summer camp
or something, and maybe being aware of being different, but is
this a reason to remove an integral part of his sex organ?
* It seems that much sexual pleasure is derived from the function
of the foreskin
* It seems like a traumatic and painful thing to put a newborn
* There are risks involved in doing the circumcision; some do get
botched, with horrific and life-altering results
* My son can make a choice to be circumcised later if he wants, but
could never choose to have his foreskin back if circumcised
I'll be very interested to see what others say. I have also been
curious about other Jews choosing not to circumcise. Thanks for
bringing this up.
My husband and I are both Jewish. Circumcision was a huge issue
for us, and we discussed the topic evening after evening, with
all sorts of friends, all angles and arguments.
We were greatly relieved when our first child turned out to be a
girl and we could let it rest. Our second (almost two now) is
not. My husband was always against circumcision: he felt it to
be barbaric and unnecessary. I think it helped that he'd been
around when his brother made the decision some years earlier not
to circumcise his son (this helped the family, his side at
least, be accepting, if not approving). I was much more
ambivalent, agreeing, basically, that it seemed unnecessary, but
also having some lingering sense that circumcison was the
correct Jewish way to go. It was also the norm for me: all the
penises I'd ever met had been snipped and that's how I expected
him to be. In the end, we decided not to. For me, I finally
came around, because it seemed the forward-looking, more humane
way to go. Now, by the way, it seems like much less of a big
deal. Keep in mind that either way is just fine for your son.
I always just assumed that because we were Jewish, if we had a
boy he would be circumcised. It was only when I actually
decided to become pregnant that I started to question it and I
just couldn't get the idea of a “painful and unnecessary
medical procedure” out of my head. As I began (a little bit
nervously) to talk to other Jewish parents (some a lot more
observant than us), I found less judgment and more support than
I expected both from those who chose to circumcise and those
who didn't. My family expressed disapproval, around the time
of my son's birth and “naming ceremony,” but it just hasn't
some up since then. I worry a little when he's with a lot of
other Jewish kids (e.g. at summer camp) if he'll be teased or
just asked about it, but that hasn't happened (yet). I was
also fortunate because, my husband ultimately agreed with me.
I have never regretted it and while I want to let other Jewish
parents know that it's a possibility (so they don't feel like
they're the only ones, like I did), I'm careful not to
proselytize. Good luck.
I am a Jewish woman married to an African American man.
We decided not to circumcise our son. For me, it was a gut
level feeling. I knew that it would be something I'd regret if I
did, but I researched the topic anyway. I found some good
information on the internet, as well as the book
''Questioning Circumcision, a Jewish Perspective'' by
Ronald Goldman. Although none of what I read changed my
mind in any way, I just wanted to make sure my opinion was
What I initially felt was that if we didn't do it, our son would
be the only uncircumcised little Jewish boy out there, but I
didn't want my perception of isolation or differece to be the
motivationg factor in my descision. But now I think that there
are many of us, we just don't know each other. Let me say
that I'm a fairly secular Jew and I don't belong to a temple.
Fortunately, my family easily accepted our decision, but I
definitely brought it up before he was born so we could talk
My opinion is that all traditions are changing and growing,
even this one. I think it is important to question one's culture
and traditions and not just blindly follow along. We actively
debate every other aspect of Judaism, so why is this etched
in stone? I'm proud of our descision and know it was right
for us. I have yet to encounter anything negative from
anyone, and if I do, I'll find another group of Jews to hang out
a Jewish mom with a Jewish son
I've enjoyed this respectful discussion! My wife and I
decided to circumsise both of our sons, also after much thought.
In some sense we saw it
as a ritual of recognition that our boys cannot re-make their own
past, and that their inheritance - good and bad - cannot be
denied. The issue of whether a Jew can/could ''pass'' (as a
non-Jew) is of huge historical and philosophical significance.
That said, if we had felt that medical arguments against
circumcision were stronger - and some interpret evidence
differently - we wouldn't have done it.
Lastly, I would also recommend that those who do choose to
circumcise consider Chanan Feld! He did our older boy, but our
younger one was circumcised in the hospital with us present over
a week after birth it was a far lengthier procedure, and
definitely much more unpleasant!
this page was last updated: Dec 27, 2009
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