More and more Jewish families are opting out of a traditional Bris. Here, Maxine, a Jewish mother, shares her experience with the Jewish Circumcision Decision. Please see resources below for more information.
I was 24 yrs old in 1988 expecting our first child. We did not know the gender but growing up in a mixed religious home (Jewish/Catholic) our baby would be circumcised if it was a son if for no other reason than to please my Jewish half of the family. My husband himself was circumcised though that was because he was born in the 1960′s when this was very routine; he was raised in an Anglican home. My Jewish doctor was indifferent at the time; he wasn’t going to argue one way or the other on the subject – it was the choice of the baby’s family. In 1988 we were blessed with a daughter!
I was 28 years old when we were expecting our second child in 1992; ultrasound told us we were expecting a little boy about 1/2 way through the pregnancy. Now that I was a mother, a little older and was in fact having a son there was more discussion about circumcision, much more thought this time round. My husband and I discussed it; he said it was my decision to make and he would support my decision. I sat down with my still Jewish doctor to have a more serious discussion on the matter.
His words were simple…”You are Jewish because your mother converted to Judaism in order to marry your father. Your son, circumcised or not, will be Jewish as he will be born to a Jewish mother. You don’t attend synagogue…you don’t need to feel guilty if you choose not to circumcise. I do not recommend that your son be circumcised; it is not medically necessary and is no longer done routinely. There is no reason to circumcise unless your religious beliefs are so strong.”
I left the doctors office 90% sure that we’d not circumcise. Needless to say there was some discussion among the extended family however we chose to ignore it for the most part. There was never any discussion between my husband and myself that the baby should be circumcised so he would “look the same” as his father.
We welcomed the arrival of our son. As I held my newborn for the 1st moments of his life I was immediately overwhelmed with love and protection of this little boy. I knew without a doubt in that moment that there was no way I would allow him to be put through the trauma of circumcision; I was his protector.
When he was about 10 months old I stopped to chat with a neighour, she herself Jewish, the mother of 3 girls and 1 boy. She asked me about my son’s Bris, the Jewish ritual of circumcision on the 8th day of life. When I said we didn’t do it she was horrified “how will he ever marry a Jewish girl!” A wave of guilt washed over me ( the Jewish side of me) and I was upset and restless about my decision. I thought “oh dear have I made the wrong choice”. I went home, looked up the number of a local synagogue to which I have no affiliation and called to speak to the Rabbi. He was reassuring and said though it is preferred that Jewish boys are circumcised it is more important that we raise him to be a good man. He said our boy could always choose later in his life if he wished to be circumcised
Now it is 2014. Over the past few weeks I have heard ads on radio encouraging parents to circumcise their sons and who they can call to get it done. As far as I know it is still considered cosmetic surgery in British Columbia- meaning parents pay out of pocket, directly to the physician. It is not covered under our universal healthcare system. I would encourage new parents to seek the advice of their own physician and remember it did nothing to harm my son in the fact that he and his Dad did not match; I have to say I don’t ever recall them comparing or my son ever asking…so don’t use that as an excuse to have your newborn circumcised.
This is one of the first of so many decisions we make as parents; learn early to forgive yourself if you don’t get every decision right. Enjoy your son’s!
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