March 2, 1999:

I recently came across an anti-circumcision website.
The website gives gory description (and photographs) with well-reasoned arguments and testimonials against circumcision in general (the site doesn't really discuss bris milah specifically). The site's owner is part of a growing movement of men who are angry about having been circumcised in infancy; mutilated (his word, not mine) for no particular reason. If you'd like to visit the original website, write to me: [email protected].

Visiting this site was an eye-opening experience for me. My attitude towards medical circumcision has always been "What can it hurt?" This website changed my mind. To do these things to a child who has no say in the matter, without giving him something of value in return, is cruel. My advice to prospective parents now would be: If you have no good reason for doing so, don't circumcise your baby.

Judaism is a good reason, but only if you make it one.

Here is an adaptation of a letter I wrote to the owner of the website:

My feelings reading through this material were "Yes, if I wasn't Jewish, I probably wouldn't circumcise, seeing all of this..."  The idea of mutilating a baby so "he'll look like his father," or for mythological reasons of cleanliness, actually IS abhorrent to me.
The Jewish perspective is that circumcision is not be pleasant, but in some cases, it may be the right thing to do nevertheless.  As Jews, we don't always like the things we are asked to do.  Couples separate for half of every month, not willingly, but because it's necessary to a Jewish marriage.  I like to eat at Red Lobster, but I've given it up, reluctantly, in return for greater benefits.  So I had my baby circumcised at 8 days, without a second thought, and I have no feelings of regret now, because I believe he will benefit because of it.  It's a trade-off -- a severe one, I agree, but worthwhile, or we wouldn't have done it.
We learned something when our son was a baby that is relevant to the circumcision issue here.  He was born with an extra finger, which we chose to remove when he was a year old.  Before our son had the operation, my husband went to a rabbi and asked, "What if he grows up and sues us for mutilating him, by cutting off his finger?"  The rabbi said, "You have twenty years to raise him -- teach him not to sue his father."

You can't just circumcize a boy and not give him anything in return.  Bris milah, Jewish ritual circumcision, is a door opening; the child becomes a full Jew.  It's not the end; it's the beginning.  You then have twenty years (more or less) to raise him so he won't resent you for doing it to him... 

Now, I don't know if you're Jewish at all (sorry...), but if you are, your parents apparently failed to use that opportunity to make your circumcision seem meaningful to you.  If that is the case, I have to say (as a Jewish parent), that that's really too bad.  And if your parents are not Jewish, you're probably right -- there really is no reason they should be doing it to little kids.  I hope the arguments at your website will help you convince others like them to stop.
Hosted by