Eliminating The Cruelest Cut

Eliminating The Cruelest Cut October 4, 2011

I was very pleased to be contacted recently by Dr. Mark Reiss, who maintains the website, cirumstitions.com.  His site is committed to providing accurate information about the dangers of infant circumcision.  It also promotes b’rit shalom (covenant of peace) ceremonies over the traditional b’rit or b’ris milah (covenant of circumcision).  I hope to soon be added to his list of those who perform these circumcision-free ceremonies.

I have already written about my opposition to infant circumcision.  Now, with the release of a new film and a new website, there is finally some momentum building among Jews to do away with this antiquated and barbaric custom.  The film is called Cut.  I am very anxious to see it.  The filmmaker’s website provides a link to an article he wrote and some other information.

The new website, beyondthebris.com, is maintained by Rebecca Wald, who it seems is a lantsman (i.e., she lives in South Florida).  It’s full of excellent information and I highly recommend it.

While I’ve said before that the effort to criminalize infant circumcision is probably a bridge too far, at least for the present, I’m glad that these efforts have expanded this conversation.  The liberal movements have never really been engaged by this issue.  Even the nineteenth century reformers, who opposed so many ancient rituals, never properly discussed it.

I cannot imagine why any sane person would put their baby boy through an unnecessary and painful surgery without even the benefit of anesthesia.  Yet, until recently, no one in Jewish leadership has challenged this obsolete and primitive ritual.

On a personal note…it’s another reason I’m happy that I only have daughters.

UPDATE:  Dr. Reiss contacted me with a correction. The website circumstitions was actually created by Hugh Young, an “intactivist” from New Zealand.  He hosts the celbrants page for Dr. Reiss.

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  • Anonymous

    The pain of a bris is minimial, no?


  • Not according to all of the information I have received. Check out those sites for more detailed medical opinions.

  • Anonymous

    I am very sad that most doctor-mohels will not begin with an injection of lidocaine. The documentary film Cut makes it blatant that bris hurts like hell. I also am amazed that Judaism has not firmly repudiated having the mohel suck on the freshly circumcised penis.

    I warmly agree that criminalising brit milah is going too far, and will only inflame the latent Jewish feeling of martyrdom. Also, outlawing a social custom is NOT a good way to eliminate it; making it uncool is. All unobservant, most Reform, and many Conservative families will give up bris when it is generally accepted that the circumcised penis is sexually inferior. We should never forget that medical and sexual sophistication are major parts of Jewish culture.

    A fundamental reason why bris is in trouble is that middle class goyim are giving it up, and the typical Jewish woman has at least one sexual fling with a goy while attending college. Over the next several decades, it will become the norm for Canadian and American young Jewish women to have at least one sexual experience with an intact partner. Some will be disgusted, and some will be indifferent. But there already are young Jewish women who blog that uncut is better. Jewish mothers tend to get their way.

    • Judaism HAS repudiated the practice that you mentioned. I asked my mother. She told me that the moyel that did the bris for my younger brother gave him a few drops of Manischewitz purple wine for pain before and after the procedure, which was done at the hospital. The drops of wine for the baby, in order to diminish discomfort, are traditional, I was told. I would think that lidocaine injection that you suggested would be painful, not to mention unsafe for an infant.

      As for the rest, you can rest assured, from me, an (almost) middle-aged American Jewish woman, that circumcised is NOT inferior, but rather, SUPERIOR. Jewish, and Muslim men are clean, circumcised and delightful. One need have no fear of encountering one of those unappetizing, uncircumcised parts. Similarly, I think that anyone concerned with assuring future generations of Jews would want to encourage circumcision, for self-explanatory reasons per my comment.