I was recovering in the hospital after the birth of my son when I
learned that the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer endorsed
routine neonatal circumcision. While my family buzzed excitedly with
plans for the Bris, a hospital pamphlet encouraged me to make “an
educated decision,” presenting me with reasons to opt out of the
pending procedure (on my unknowing son’s behalf, of course).
But "educated" or not, I knew that I had no choice. As a Jew, no
matter who endorsed or didn’t endorse circumcision, my son was going
to enter the covenant of Abraham by marking the eighth day of his life
with the celebratory removal of his foreskin. Though I was not immune
to the speculation that circumcision could possibly be harmful to my
baby - potentially ridding him of precious antibacterial proteins and
erogenous sensitivity - I felt deeply that G-d was looking out for my
son’s reproductive organ.
Indeed, eight days later, my son followed two thousand years of Jewish
tradition and bid his foreskin adieu.
However, I, his Jewish mother, silently followed the circumcision
debate. Having been introduced to the questions, I was now curious.
Could there really be a reasonable argument against Judaism’s earliest
ritual? I read the studies, perused "Mothers Against Circumcision"
sites and learned about the growing number of parents opting out of
But I quickly became lost. No matter how hard I tried in collecting
facts, there seemed to be no real consensus among pediatricians and
surgeons. While the AAP no longer endorsed circumcision, they
certainly didn’t condemn it. Furthermore, I was forced to rule out the
voice of anti-circumcision campaigners, an outcry consistently based
solely on being disgusted by the circumcision procedure itself, citing
possible complications that pediatricians all agree are rare. The only
solid piece of information, of little importance to me and my family,
was that circumcision was successful in curbing the spread of AIDS in
men in Africa.
Then one day, I was flipping through the most beloved motherhood
manual, “What to Expect: The First Year,” when a simple reminder
changed the course of my queries. In her opening to the section on
circumcision, Heidi Murkoff writes, “Circumcision is probably the
oldest medical procedure still performed.” That straightforward fact
hit me like a thousand bricks of “duh.”
Why was I acting lost on the matter? A Jew questioning circumcision! I
suddenly felt ridiculous (and a little guilty) for being so concerned
with what everyone else had to say about circumcision, when it was an
unchallenged fact for my father and his father and his father…all the
way back to the original commandment. While the world was easily
throwing a question at the extra foreskin with all its inconclusive
studies and articles, Judaism was confidently calling the Mohel.
My realization about circumcision’s history ended my search with the
one authority I began with: my own faith was the only clear voice on
this below-the-belt matter. Now I have returned to researching more
consequential things, wishing G-d’s voice would also ring out about
whether or not to buy a Bugaboo stroller or his take on the perilous
war on child vaccinations.
Though I have swiftly cut off my questioning on foreskin, articles
addressing circumcision still beg my read. Most recently, a study
showed that most parents feel it’s important to have their boys
resemble daddy – if the father is circumcised, the son should follow
suit. Now that sounds just like what my Jewish brethren have been
doing all along…all the way back to our father Abraham