Jewish Circumcision: Essays
Articles from j. weekly, Huffington Post, and other publications
My writings on the inclusion of non-circumcising families in Jewish life; the rhetoric of the circumcision controversy; and points of Jewish law.
- Brit Milah and Loving the Stranger: A Bruchim Text Study, 3/21/22
- From Mother to Grandmother: Circumcision and My Jewish Journey, Tikkun, 11/11/21
- Award-winning essay “How I Became a Radical, an Engaged Jew, and a Writer,” November 2020
- Original Tikkun article selected for inclusion in Tikkun’s special 30th Anniversary Edition, 8/31/16
- Video of Celebrating Brit Shalom Book and Music Presentation 5/1/16
- Book for Non-Circumcising Families Hits Reform Judaism Conference, Jewschool, 1/21/16
- Spiritual Authenticity and the Circumcision Decision, Jewish Journal, 7/8/15
- For Families Choosing Not to Circumcise, a Sea Change, j. weekly, 2/5/15
- Controversy or No-Brainer? Proposing a New Rhetoric of Jewish Circumcision, Huffington Post, 9/30/14
- Brit Shalom Families: Where’s the Controversy? Huffington Post, 6/26/14
- Choosing Not to Circumcise—Last Frontier of Jewish Inclusion? j. weekly, 2/13/14
- Bizarre Circumcision Stories—Where’s the Journalism? Beyond the Bris, 9/3/13
- Metzitzah B’peh Ritual Inconsistent with Jewish Principles, Huffington Post, 6/14/12
- Why I Write About Men’s Body Parts 6/6/12
- Rotten Acceptances: A Writer’s Favorite Nightmare (from essay collection “I’m Not Impressed…”), 1/7/10
- Circumcision: A Jewish Inquiry, Midstream, 1/92
- The Jewish Roots of Anti-Circumcision Arguments (presentation, 2nd International Symposium on Circumcision), 4/30/91
- A Painful Case, Tikkun, 9/90
Why This Topic?
I became interested in the issue 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.
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’d 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 male character who explores the circumcision controversy—and his own psychic wounds—as he seeks meaning in his Jewish identity. It took awhile 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 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. We also had original music written and produced to accompany the ceremonies in the book. Please visit our book’s website 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.
Bruchim: A New Organization
I’m working to change this, and am very proud to say that I’m co-founder and President of Bruchim, a new Jewish nonprofit that advocates for the open inclusion of non-circumcising families in Jewish life. Please visit our website!