The Circumcision Debate

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Last month, I went to the bris of a colleague’s newborn son, and I was reminded how difficult these lifecycle rituals are for me. Gathering friends and family to welcome a child into the community is, of course, a lovely thing.

But the all-too-chipper mohel, cracking jokes, scalpel in hand, in front of a table of smoked fish was all-too surreal. When the deed was done, the baby screamed, jubilation ensued, and cream cheese was shmeared.

Let’s be honest, all the new research on AIDS prevention aside, this is one intense ritual.

I should be clear: I’m not against circumcision. But it does freak me out. We can, in theory, initiate a newborn baby boy into the Jewish community in any number of ways. And we do it by cutting his privates. We mark the body in the most serious way possible. This from a community known for its cerebral — disembodied — inclinations.

All of this is by way of saying that you should read Amy Odell’s Jewess interview with Dr. Ronald Goldman of the Circumcision Resource Center. Goldman is definitively anti-circumcision, and while I’m not directing you to him in support of his ideas, I don’t think honest discussion about the topic would be such a terrible thing.

There are noble religious/health reasons to circumcise a baby. But pretending it’s a simple prelude to bagels — and, eventually, bar mitzvahs — might not be in our best interest.

Posted on March 30, 2007
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