Working toward open inclusion of non-circumcising families in Jewish life
Lisa Braver Moss
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I became interested in the topic of circumcision years ago when my boys were born. I'm Jewish and have a strong sense of my identity, and I'm married to a Jewish man. Not surprisingly, I felt obligated to go through with the circumcisions. But the experience did not reflect my spirituality—in fact, I was deeply upset by it.
You're Jewish—and proud of it.
But you're questioning circumcision.
You're not alone.
I started writing about it
I wanted to express my feelings in a way that was respectful of Judaism and consistent with Jewish thought, so I started doing research into Jewish law. I published articles questioning circumcision in Tikkun and Midstream and did a few public presentations. Then I moved on to other topics. I had finally gotten circumcision out of my system. Or so I thought.
A book idea grabbed me and wouldn't let go
More than ten years later, I found myself imagining a fictional male character who explores the circumcision controversy, and his own wounding, as he seeks meaning in his Jewish identity. It took a long time for me to teach myself to write fiction, but eventually I completed The Measure of His Grief (Notim Press, 2010), a novel about a Jewish doctor in Berkeley who wages a campaign against circumcision while trying to reclaim his personal life, his professional standing, and his Jewishness. Again, I thought I was done...
Where was the resource for "Brit Shalom" families (Jewish families opting out of circumcision)?
But then I began contemplating the growing number of families seeking peaceful alternatives to the traditional bris. Along with a co-author, Rebecca Wald, I wrote Celebrating Brit Shalom, the first-ever book for Jewish parents who choose not to circumcise. My co-author and I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund our project (see video). Plus, we had original music written and produced to accompany the ceremonies in the book. Please visit our web site to learn more.
Quiet inclusion of Brit Shalom families
Meanwhile, I was inspired by the exemplary efforts of progressive Judaism to include and welcome families that may not appear traditionally Jewish. A lightning bolt struck: I needed to explore, and write about, the inclusion of non-circumcising families in synagogues and other Jewish organizations. I reached out to quite a few rabbis, and was surprised to learn that such families have been welcome for years in progressive synagogues across the country—under the radar, that is. Since the welcome isn't explicit, non-circumcising parents may not realize there's a place for them in mainstream Jewish life. Most likely, synagogues and other Jewish institutions are losing the affiliation of such families. And those who are committed to Jewish life, but not to circumcision, may feel alienated and isolated from our community.
I'm working to change this, and am very proud to say that my own congregation now openly welcomes non-circumcising families. Please join me in this endeavor!