The case for circumcision
Upon reading the article “Near Bris: A new challenge to circumcision, this time from Jews,” (Nov. 17), I was quite disturbed and appalled as a Conservative Jew raising three young children in these trying times for American Jews.
This article immediately made me think back to my days in Hebrew School learning about Hellenistic Jews during the zenith of Greek civilization. Some Jews, out of a misguided belief that they would assimilate and become fully accepted into Greek society, would forgo brit mila or even go so far as trying to reverse the circumcision as an adult. In the long run, this attempted integration did not work for a whole host of reasons.
This is also not about gender equality. It is about a covenant with God passed down from Abraham for all Jewish men, plain and simple. If we want to start arguing equality, then maybe Jewish men should start being angry that each and every Friday night we welcome in and refer to the Sabbath as a bride. Should Jewish men also be mad that within the eyes of Judaism, women are universally considered closer to God than men because they have the ability to bear a child and actively help create life? Judaism is not about what is his and what is hers. It is about one’s individual quest towards understanding and ever seeking a closer relationship with God through practice and belief regardless of gender.
Studies have shown that women who have long term relations with circumcised versus uncircumcised men are less likely to contract cervical cancer. Two studies in Kenya and Uganda have shown that circumcision can reduce the risk for acquiring HIV/AIDS through heterosexual sex. For uncircumcised boys and men, there are issues with phimosis (foreskin cannot retract), paraphimosis (just the opposite, which can lead to death of the glans), infections due to poor hygiene, sexual dysfunction, and a host of other issues. And, as for the argument that the parents should let the child make his own decision of whether to be circumcised or not: unlike a bris at eight days of age, an “adult” circumcision is a surgical procedure done under general anesthesia with potentially significant post-operative pain, an extended recovery time, and a much higher chance for complications.
With such a strong argument also laid out in favor of circumcision above and beyond Jewish ritual and equality, it only makes sense to conduct a traditional brit mila through the use of a mohel.