Tuesday, January 21, 2014

“Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision” Goes Digital, Earns Entry Into Pasadena Film Festival

“Cut,” a documentary film that challenges Jewish circumcision, is an official selection at the 2014 Pasadena International Film Festival. The film will be shown on February 13 at 3:30p.m. at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, CA. A special thank you goes out to Danielle Gladding, who made this possible.

For those who would like to own a copy of this incredible film, now is a great time. Previously, the film was only available as a DVD. Eli Ungar-Sargon, the film’s director, has recently teamed up with an online distributor to allow for digital purchase. The film can now be downloaded for $9.99.  

“We’re just very excited to be able to make ‘Cut’ available to the world in a convenient way and at a reasonable price,” Ungar-Sargon says.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jewish Psychologist to Debate Circumcision in Europe

Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.
Ronald Goldman, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Circumcision Resource Center, a nonprofit educational organization in Boston, has been invited by the Council of Europe to participate in an interdisciplinary dialogue about circumcision at a meeting in France on January 28.

There is a growing European debate about circumcision. In October the Council of Europe, an organization of 47 member States, overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution that called circumcision, among other procedures, a violation of the physical integrity of children according to established human rights standards. Circumcision is uncommon in Europe except among Jews and Muslims.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Circumcision In Israel Not Taken For Granted Anymore

The drawbacks and potential benefits of infant circumcision are now being publicly debated in Israel, the consequence of a pending High Court case there. I wrote about some of the ethical issues last week.  The unusual case stems from a rabbinical court ruling where a mother was ordered to circumcise her nearly one-year-old son or face fines.

While some might assume that circumcision for the eight-day-old boy is an absolute in Israel, more Jewish people are questioning, and rejecting, the necessity of the rite. In researching this case, I spoke with Israeli ethicist Carmel Shalev of Haifa University Faculty of Law. She indicated to me that there is awareness in her country of the arguments against the practice.

Israeli circumcision critic Eran Sadeh (featured in the above news broadcast) has been working hard to educate Jewish people in Israel about the downsides to foreskin removal. He is the founder of the Israeli group Gonnen Al Hayeled (Protect the Child) and he is also a Beyond the Bris contributing writer. There can be no doubt that Sadeh's advocacy is playing a large role in getting Israeli parents to think critically about this once universally accepted tradition.

It is important to note that there is absolutely no legal requirement in Israel that a child be circumcised. The controversial ruling in this case came as part of a divorce proceeding where the father demanded that his son be circumcised. It is also unlikely the ruling will be upheld, and the High Court has already issued injunctive relief to the mother while the case is being decided.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ethical Issues in Israel's Bizarre Circumcision Case


Jewish mother Elinor holds up a sign of protest against the
rabbinical court ruling that she must circumcise her son.

An Israeli mother ordered to circumcise her eleven-month-old son, or face a daily accruing fine, has today taken her case to the High Court of Justice, the court of last resort in that country.

The strange case stems from a divorce proceeding. When it comes to matters of divorce, the Israeli judicial system is very different from the American system, as this case illustrates. In Israel there is no civil marriage and rabbinical courts have jurisdiction over Jewish divorce. So when the father in this case demanded that his son undergo brit milah—religious circumcision—during a divorce-related hearing, the court cited the importance of upholding the biblical covenant.

Elinor, the mother, was ordered to pay what amounts in U.S. currency to a $140-per-day fine until the boy undergoes brit milah. Elinor (who is among the approximately 40 percent of Israeli Jews that aren’t religious) says she doesn’t want to circumcise her son at all, that he is fine just the way he is. She says medical reasons prevented him from being circumcised at eight days old in keeping with the Jewish tradition, and that as time went on and she learned more about the procedure she decided against it. The boy’s father originally agreed but then made a surprising about-face in court, she says.

I wanted to get the scoop on what kind of chance Elinor’s plea would have on appeal—as well as some of the ethical issues involved, so I spoke to a prominent Israeli lawyer and ethicist, a bioethicist in the U.S., and a political scientist in London with an expertise in circumcision.

“The is a really bizarre case, the first of its kind,” said Carmel Shalev, an Israeli ethicist and human rights lawyer who teaches at Haifa University Faculty of Law. She told me she thinks the High Court of Justice will likely rule that the rabbinical court doesn’t have the authority to force anybody to perform circumcision.

In Israel, where there is no civil marriage, Orthodox rabbis, applying Orthodox religious law, are the only ones who may grant a divorce. It certainly seems like an odd system for those of us in the U.S. where church and state are separate. “They aren’t lawyers, they aren’t professional judges,” Shalev pointed out to me, adding that their powers are limited. She said in this case they are exceeding their authority. “There is no duty under Israeli law to perform male circumcision,” she said.

The rabbinical court system, where women don’t have the same right as men to obtain a divorce, was inherited from the time of the Ottoman Empire and is part of the early politics of the State of Israel. “People mostly accept the tradition and don’t make a big fuss about it,” said Shalev.

According to U.S. ethicist Ruth Macklin, the main issue for her is one of religious freedom. “Fining people for failing to adhere to a religious law is not religious freedom. This should not be the case in a democracy,” she told me.

Macklin is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and a Dr. Shoshanah Trachtenberg Frackman Faculty Scholar in Biomedical Ethics.

“It’s patently unfair to women—straightforward sexism—that a woman does not have an equal right to a divorce,” Macklin added. However, Macklin said she doesn’t feel that a parental decision about whether to circumcise is an ethical issue. She pointed out that parents make all kinds of decisions for their kids, including ones that have lasting consequences, including whether to even bring their children up in a particular religion.

Rebecca Steinfeld, a political scientist at SOAS, University of London, who has written and broadcast on the history and ethics of circumcision, told me she sees it another way. “If the rabbinical judges coerce Elinor into circumcising her son, her right to freedom of conscience would be violated,” she said. “By compelling her to irreversibly remove a healthy part of her son’s genitals without his consent, the rabbinical judges would also undermine her son’s rights to bodily integrity—a cornerstone of post-Holocaust human rights law—and an open future, since he would have to live forever with his father’s and the judges’ choice.”

Steinfeld points out that “most criticisms of the rabbinical judgment focus solely on the violation of the mother’s rights, but it is important to remember that the child’s rights would also be undermined if Israel’s High Court of Justice fails to overturn this unprecedented ruling.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why This (Jewish) Mom Skipped Circumcision


Every mom is different and brings her own style when it comes to raising her kids. I didn’t circumcise my son and feel it was 100% the right choice. At the same time, I don’t condemn parents who circumcise. I recognize that good people can experience the world in different ways due to their circumstances and their natures and can come to different conclusions.   

Choosing to leave my son with the penis he was born with was a decision very much in keeping with how I see myself as a parent. Some see parenting as a dictatorship (albeit benevolent) where the parent always knows best. Children are viewed as blank slates that must be taught not simply how to navigate themselves in the world, but also such things as morals and spirituality.   

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Judaism, Bris Milah, and Human Rights: A Torah Perspective


There can be no doubt that bris milah is an important mitzvah. While the Torah does call for circumcision at eight days, there are indeed prominent Jews in the Tanakh who were circumcised later in life. Avraham Avinu was circumcised at 99; tradition holds that he kept the entirety of the written and oral Torah well before matan Torah, meaning he performed the majority of mitzvahs in his life while in an uncircumcised state.

Friday, November 15, 2013

When Everything In Me Said to Circumcise: A Jewish Father Wrestles with Tradition


Author, Mark Morris, with his partner Jude and their son Lev.

I always thought that if I had a son I would not circumcise him. I felt the need to challenge this Jewish tradition. It felt like quite a brutal decision to take on behalf of my newborn son, for a covenant that I did not believe in. (I am secular but very culturally identified.) But when I found out that we were going to have a baby boy, the sudden emotional desire to have him circumcised was immediate and very strong.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Following Our Hearts: A Father's Brit Shalom Journey

A beachside brit shalom in Vancouver, Canada.


My wife, Amari, was seven months pregnant and we were at our midwife appointment. At this point we knew we would be having a boy. Near the end of our visit, the midwife asked us what we were planning to do about circumcision.

Amari and I are both Jewish and we had discussed it a couple of times before. My take was: “We're Jewish. My grandparents are Holocaust survivors. Our boy is getting circumcised." However, Amari was against the procedure, although she was willing to do it if it meant that much to me.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bizarre Circumcision Stories: Where's the Journalism?

By Lisa Braver Moss
Special to Beyond the Bris

If you follow circumcision in the news, you’ve been busy lately. And if you happen to like journalism that’s baffling—well, there’s been plenty to enjoy.

The Atlantic, for example, recently ran a piece about a married couple facing the circumcision decision. Like so many publications, the magazine apparently thought it had to be balanced about the parents’ opposing points of view. The highlighted quote: “We quickly realized that neither of us had any rational reason to feel strongly about the subject.”

Wait, these parents are equally irrational? One thinks baby should be left intact, while the other is advocating for surgery with no medical condition present. Those are both illogical?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jewish Activist Speaks on Metzitzah B'Peh Circumcision Practice


The video has been published by photographer and videographer James Loewen. Loewen has been capturing emotionally gripping images and videos from inside the anti-circumcision movement. Many of his videos have been uploaded to his YouTube Channel, Bonobo3D. Loewen began uploading the videos four years ago and they comprise some of the most important statements being made and aired to a worldwide audience on the subject of childhood circumcision.

Social activist Jonathan Friedman, who is a longtime friend and contributing writer to Beyond the Bris, is featured on a new YouTube video discussing the Orthodox brit milah procedure he endured as an eight day old infant. He also speaks about his work to inform others on the harms caused by circumcision.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Our Covenant Is With Our Son: My Family's Take on Jewish Circumcisions

The author's husband, James, and their son Etani. 


The baby, who had been so quiet, peaceful, and trusting just moments before, opened his mouth in shock, a look of utter bewilderment on his face, and then started to scream. He screamed shrilly, like a wounded animal.

“I hate this part,” his grandmother muttered to me, shaking her head and ducking outside. “I’ll come back later.”

Friday, June 7, 2013

My Jewish Heritage was Key to Unlocking the American Secret


Photo/James Loewen
I was born and raised a Reconstructionist Jew in Scarsdale, NY. I wish I could say that growing up, with every cousin’s bris, I struggled mightily to comprehend such brutality. The truth is that, like virtually all children, I trusted the adults who told me that foreskin removal was in a baby’s best interest.

As I grew older, it was my Jewish education and upbringing that prompted me to be more considered about rules and authority, and ultimately to be reflective about circumcision.

When you grow up with the reality that your ancestors were persecuted in just about every place in which they tried to settle, and found to be on the the wrong side of the law just a tad too often, you come to appreciate that cultural embrace and legal status are weak litmus tests for determining whether someone or something is good or ethical. In referencing my ancestors, I’m not just talking about abrahamic tent dwellers or European Jewry in the 1930s, but also Russian Jews in the late 1980s. I realized I could not blindly trust the so-called “authorities”--even the Jewish ones--when it came to determining right from wrong. Once you grasp that, you resign yourself to a life of figuring stuff out for yourself.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Emotional Consequences of Circumcision


The American Academy of Pediatrics announced in 2012 a change in its policy regarding infant male circumcision. Whereas previously they held “the procedure is not essential to the childʼs current well-being,” now in their carefully worded statement they say “the benefits outweigh the risks.” This reversal comes at a time when circumcision rates are at their lowest point in years in the USA, and when many people around the world are taking a stand against the procedure.

The benefits cited by the AAP are to prevent the potential for physical illness or disease, the evidence of which is questionable at best. There is no reference by the AAP to even the possibility of emotional harm resulting from such a traumatic experience so early in life.

There are countless animal studies showing that traumatic experiences soon after birth cause crippling long term effects. Such studies on human infants, while fewer, also show the damaging effects of early childhood trauma. Apparently, in the eyes of the AAP, such evidence is not considered important.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Call for Sensitivity in Discussing Circumcision


I am a young woman who is proud to be deeply invested in the movement to defeat institutionalized circumcision. However, as I have previously confessed, I once agreed with and actually defended this unnecessary surgery and its imposition on non-consenting infants. 

Since I used to be pro-cutting and am now adamantly opposed to it, I remember which messages I used to scoff at, and which messages actually got me to listen. I couldn't identify with the horror of the procedure until I learned about it in a non-judgmental manner. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Third Year Brings Change for Beyond the Bris


What I love about Beyond the Bris is that it brings together different perspectives. I enjoy writing posts but it’s far more exciting for me to publish contributions from others. Jewish circumcision is a complex issue that touches on the sacred cows of sex, religion and politics.

The topics for discussion are limitless and there is always room to explore things in new ways. New and different voices are the heart and soul of Beyond the Bris.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bris Prep: What Happens During a Bris That You Might Not See


I have a friend, an educated man, who insists that circumcision during a bris involves nothing more than pulling the foreskin forward over the glans and snipping off the “excess” skin with a single cut. He is a grandfather who served as a sandak and held his grandsons during their ritual circumcision procedures. How could it possibly involve anything more, since he watched it take place before his own eyes?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Uniting the Next Generation of Parents Against Circumcision


As a nineteen-year-old woman, I only have one friend who is already a parent. She is an incredible mother to her young daughter, whose sex protected her from the circumcision debate. The rest of my peers are college-aged adults who spend an appropriately smaller amount of their free time than I do pondering infant welfare and debating a common practice that was probably performed on themselves or on their brothers. Yet in a few years, these people and I will become the newest generation of parents in America.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Circumcision Decision: Jewish Couples in Crisis


Back in the days when I was dating, before I met my wonderful husband, I would mention my views about circumcision early in a relationship, namely that I was against it and had no plans to circumcise any future sons. I figured I could marry someone with different interests or even political views, but when it came to circumcising a child, that was a deal-breaker. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Facebook Campaign Protests AAP Circumcision Policy


The AAP, who as recently as 2010 embarrassed themselves by recommending that physicians offer their patients a form of female genital cutting, find themselves on the wrong side of history once again. Their task force report is an insult to both reason and science and has destroyed what little credibility they may have had left on the subject.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Circumcision Resource Center Responds to Revised AAP Statement


The Circumcision Resource Center, headed by Ronald Goldman, Ph.D., has issued a response to the American Academy of Pediatric's revised policy on circumcision. The AAP pronouncement, issued today, strengthens the organization's stance in favor of circumcision, but stops short of recommending the procedure for all male infants.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Parshat Lech L'cha: Why Infant Circumcision in Judaism Isn't Kosher


Then God said to Abraham, “You must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Gen. 17:9-14)
I realize I may be making myself enemies, within and without, writing this essay, but here we go: I’m opposed to circumcision. To me, it echoes one too many abusive procedures, on top of the whole consent problem. An eight-day-old child cannot consent to any kind of procedure. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Eight Reasons Why an Intact Penis Is Better Than a Cut Penis


Shalom. I’m Israeli, I’m Jewish and I’m an Intactivist, which means I strive to end male circumcision performed on infants and children in Israel and around the world. My journey to Intactivism began seven years ago when my son was born.

My wife and I had no doubts about circumcision. Although I hated it, and knew I was only doing it because it was a social dictate, I felt that putting my son through a surgical procedure to make his penis look “normal” was a must. The thought of not circumcising didn’t even cross my mind.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The German Circumcision Dilemma: Expanding the Debate and Proposing a Way Forward


A German court in Cologne recently ruled that circumcising young boys represents grievous bodily harm. The court found the child’s "fundamental right to bodily integrity" was more important than the parents’ rights. According to the court, the religious freedom "would not be unduly impaired" because the child could later decide whether to have the circumcision.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Attachment Parenting, Avoiding Circumcision: My Jewish Family Traditions


I was born in Newark NJ at Beth Israel Hospital in the 1950s and was raised in Livingston NJ. My parents were Jewish. My father always taught me to question, and so throughout my life I have questioned all that has come before me to make sure I am following what I believe to be the truth. I published my first book in 2010, Creating Healthy Children: Through Attachment Parenting and Raw Foods.

The book focuses on parents following the needs of the child. Home birth, long-term breastfeeding, weaning when baby is ready to wean, skin-to-skin contact, holding baby, the family bed, and modeling emotional poise are all aspects of attachment parenting, which lead to superior physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development of the child. I devote a chapter of my book to circumcision facts and the harms of circumcision surgery.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Novelist Lisa Braver Moss Writes on Circumcision Jewish Practices for Huffington Post


Novelist and Beyond the Bris contributor Lisa Braver Moss has written a powerful essay for the Huffington Post on metzitzah b’peh, which is practiced by some Orthodox mohels during the bris. As a direct result of the ritual, several New York infants contracted the herpes virus. Two died and two suffered permanent brain damage.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Healthy Eats and Natural Parenting Unite in “Creating Healthy Children” Book


Author and lecturer Karen Ranzi
at Nuage Cafe in Parkland Florida.
In her new book Creating Healthy Children: Through Attachment Parenting and Raw Foods (2012) Jewish author, lecturer and mom Karen Ranzi combines two subjects that are close to her heart in an informative compendium of sound parenting advice and great raw food recipes that even picky toddlers will devour. 

“I began writing my book emphasizing only raw food nutrition. However, I realized that one cannot raise a healthy child through good food alone,” Ranzi says. “Attachment parenting is crucial. The mothers of today’s civilized world must return to their roots and learn to listen to their maternal instincts in order to be present to raise their children,” she says.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"What to Expect When You're Expecting" Highlights Circumcision Controversy


The question of whether to circumcise is front and center in the new film “What to Expect When You’re Expecting ” which has an all-star cast that includes Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Matthew Morrison, Chris Rock, and Dennis Quaid. The comedy-drama (heavier on the comedy) follows five expectant couples as they prepare to face parenthood.

“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is well done, with solid acting and a fast-paced script that keeps the audience laughing. For circumcision critics, it is a slam-dunk in terms of pop-culture attention to this issue. Jules (Cameron Diaz) is an LA celebrity who is determined not to circumcise her son despite the protestations of the baby’s father Evan (Matthew Morrison). When a tabloid magazine prints that Jules won’t be circumcising on its front cover, the couple’s tensions over the issue escalate. The circumcision issue is not merely addressed in passing. It is a major plot point in the film.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Choosing Brit Shalom Over Brit Milah


Twenty-five years ago my husband and I did something few Jewish parents had. We held a brit shalom ceremony for our son as opposed to a brit milah. We invited guests without saying there would be no circumcision. Dr. Dean Edell (who is Jewish and opposed to circumcision) sent a camera crew for our brit shalom and later used clips from it on different TV programs.

We had a friend who was a rabbi in education, but without a pulpit. It was novel for him to do a brit without mila, but he was willing to do it and risk it. There was also a rabbi in Marin County who was known to do a brit shalom. He was known as a hippie rabbi. He also was willing to do this for us. So we had two rabbis.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Genital Autonomy "Zine" Makes Debut

Social activist and New Yorker Jonathan Friedman has recently published a “zine” on male infant circumcision titled “Genital Autonomy: Why Circumcision Must Be Stopped.” This is a significant project because it is introducing a wide audience to the harms of circumcision in an innovative way—and also in a way that is, at the same time, steeped in historical tradition. In the following interview, Jonathan talks about his project and how those interested in preventing infant circumcision can get involved.

Beyond the Bris:

What exactly is a “zine” for those who may be unfamiliar with the term?


A zine is a pamphlet. Perhaps the most famous example is Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” Zines are made to be mass-produced, which is really easy with photocopiers. The word “zine” is short for magazine, and is pronounced “ZEEN.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Me But Not My Son: A Young Jewish Man Breaks Rank on Circumcision

Some young Jewish men thinking ahead to fatherhood have decided they
will reject circumcision for their sons while also embracing their Jewishness. 


I am 21 years old, Jewish, and opposed to circumcision. I attend college in Indiana. I grew up in a small Southern town where my family was one of a handful of Jews. My parents were born and raised Jewish. I was circumcised when I was eight days old by a mohel at a brit milah.

My Jewish identity was always very important to me growing up. I went to synagogue a lot, spent my summers at a Jewish summer camp, had a bar mitzvah, and in high school was part of NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth). I went to Israel for a semester in high school. When I was a child and teenager, I was always proud to be Jewish, to be a part of G-d’s chosen people, to be in a culture that valued life and not death. I’m also a person who finds the idea of permanent body modification disturbing. I feel G-d made us the way we are for a reason. Every organ has a purpose. Even our imperfections are a sign of our individuality. When I found out I was circumcised, I was horrified.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bringing a Jewish Circumcision Alternative (Brit Shalom) to New York Metro Families


Using his voice for good: In addition
to performing brit shalom celebrations,
Moshe Rothenberg sings to benefit
social causes. Above he performs in a
NYC benefit for the people of Darfur. 
The Jewish opposition to circumcision was just beginning 24 years ago when my wife Yehudit and I decided to leave our newborn son intact. We were not the only Jewish parents of our generation to reject circumcision, but we were among the first.

I performed my son’s birth ceremony and it was beautiful. We called it a brit b’lee milah or “covenant without circumcision.” The gift of life came unencumbered by any cutting and joy permeated the room. All three of Samuel’s living grandparents refused to attend his brit because they knew no circumcision would be taking place. This only made what Yehudit and I had decided to do more powerful. There was no going back.

Samuel was accepted and welcomed everywhere he went, in and out of the Jewish community, and within all of the relationships we had among the different Jewish denominations, including our Orthodox Jewish friends. To my knowledge, no one ever teased Samuel while he was growing up about his being in a distinct minority as a Jew with an intact penis. He never seemed to take note of the fact that his penis looked different than mine. (Not noticing or not caring is very typical for intact boys with circumcised fathers.) Nor has my son ever expressed negative feelings to me about being intact. Today, as an adult, Judaism is very important to our son.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Beyond the Bris on Beyond the Sling (Mayim Bialik's New Book)


Jewish mother and actress Mayim Bialik has just released her new book on attachment parenting titled Beyond the Sling. I applaud her work in bringing sound natural parenting principles to a broad audience. Mayim’s down-to-earth and straightforward exposition of attachment parenting will resonate with many of today’s parents, and parents-to-be, who are interested in raising children in a way that is in harmony with the way nature functions.

Attachment parenting has always made a lot of sense to me, although I don’t consider myself an adherent to any particular method when it comes to raising my kids. I gave birth to both of mine with a midwife in a birthing center. No drugs! I breastfed them each for at least two years, and nursed them together (tandem nursed) for about six months. I wore them in slings a lot of the time when they were very small. I kept them close in my bed when they were infants but eventually they moved to their own beds. (Very often we all end up just sleeping together anyhow.) Despite being Jewish, I also refused to circumcise my son. I didn’t want to subject him to the pain; figured if he was born with a foreskin, he probably needed it; and didn’t want to risk diminishing his sexual sensitivity in adulthood.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Refusing to Circumcise: A Mom's Difficult Demand

Couples in crisis: whether to circumcise a child can become a contentious
issue, regardless of religion. If it is important to you, discuss your
circumcision stance before getting into a serious relationship. 


The birth of my twin sons two years ago changed me forever. I discovered a passion and an intense female power that I had no idea existed. I also discovered I would risk everything—my marriage, my chosen faith, EVERYTHING—to keep my innocent babies intact.

I grew up Catholic in the 1970s, when most American boys were circumcised. That is what I thought was normal. Had I been a boy, my parents would have circumcised me. In my 30s, I chose to convert to Judaism. This was before I met my husband. It’s difficult to describe this powerful, heartfelt calling in words, but my Jewish friends always say I have a “Jewish soul.” I found myself immersed in a liberal, spiritual community that felt like home. I also found myself working in the Jewish community as an educator.

Progressive Rabbis on Creating a Covenant without Circumcision

Rabbi Steven Blane

Heads up on a new Intact News article that quotes five rabbis who perform peaceful Jewish welcoming ceremonies and also believe the time has come for Jews to abolish circumcision. These Rabbis represent a range of Jewish movements and include influential Jewish Studies scholar Howard Eilberg-Schwartz and Rabbi Steven Blane, Dean of the Jewish Spiritual Leader’s Institute. 

Rabbi Blane, Rabbi of Congregation Havurah Sim Shalom, and Dean of the Jewish Spiritual Leader's Institute, states in part: "It seems very silly that people who are not Jewish would engage in circumcisions. It makes no sense to me either. And neither does today from where I'm at, neither does a brit milah work for me….

Friday, December 9, 2011

Anti-Circumcision Book Signed by Howard Stern Being Auctioned

No-circ book signed by Stern.

An anti-circumcision satire book, autographed on its cover by Jewish circumcision critic Howard Stern, is being auctioned off on eBay in time for holiday gift giving. The book, I Want My Foreskin For Giftmas, was brought to Stern’s studio by guest Ron Low back in March. Low, who has twice appeared on the show, is the president of TLC Tugger, a company that invents, manufactures and sells stretching devices that help men partially restore or “regrow” the skin removed during circumcision.   
At the end of the segment featuring Low, which took place during Genital Integrity Awareness Week 2011, Low asked Stern if he would be willing to sign the book he brought to the studio, explaining he would sell it and donate the proceeds to Intact America, a charitable organization that is working to educate the public about the harms of infant circumcision. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

San Francisco "Cut" Screening

Left to right: Jonathon Conte, Eli Ungar-Sargon, Lisa Braver
Moss, Mark Reiss and Rebecca Wald.  Photo / David Wilton


This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a screening of Eli Ungar-Sargon’s documentary Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision in San Francisco. The event was hosted by the Bay Area Intactivists and event organizer Jonathon Conte did a wonderful job putting it all together.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Refusing to Close the Book: An Interview With Lisa Braver Moss

Lisa Moss: Proud to be Jewish
and against circumcision.
San Francisco Bay Area author Lisa Braver Moss sensed that circumcision was wrong when she first learned of the ritual as a child. Yet when Lisa’s sons were born in the 1980s she agreed to have them circumcised, adhering to Jewish tradition and widely embraced American convention. Most mothers who circumcise, despite knowing better in their hearts, would close the book on the matter forever. Courageously, Lisa has refused to do this. In 1991, Lisa spoke against the practice at the Second International Symposium on Circumcision hosted by National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC). Over the years, she’s written articles on the subject and has recently published The Measure of His Grief, a novel about a quirky Jewish doctor who becomes an unlikely circumcision opponent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Declaring Circumcision 'Health Positive' A Terrible Mistake

The below testimony was given on Tuesday in Sacramento opposing proposed California law, AB-768, seeking to declare the benefits of male circumcision and to prevent local governments from restricting its practice in any way.  

Levitt to legislators: I was
harmed by circumcision.
Good afternoon. My name is Brian Levitt and I live in San Francisco. I’ve come today to Sacramento to urge this committee to shelve this badly thought-out measure. This is an emergency bill, but there is no emergency on the part of its sponsors. There is no pending ballot measure that they object to, there is no imminent harm to children or families, and laws exist already that deal with this. Please do not rush into endorsing legislation that duplicates existing law yet creates favored status for religions and practitioners over the rights of those of us who have to bear the surgery.
I am Jewish, the eldest of 3 children and the son of a doctor. What troubles me most about AB-768 is that it aims to establish, as a matter of California law, that circumcision is "health-positive" and "affiliation-positive." This would be a terrible mistake, as such claims are not supported by any medical or psychological association in the world. This language is a “hail Mary pass” by circumcision supporters and has no business becoming part of the Code of California. It is biased, misleading and inaccurate.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Howard Stern's Producer Won't Be Circumcising His Newborn

Will Murray won't cut his boy.

It looks like Howard Stern's denouncement of infant circumcision on his radio show over the years has left a big impression on the show's researcher and segment producer, Will Murray. 

Yesterday, Murray spoke on Howard 100 News about the birth of his son, Owen. Murray was proud to say his boy is "au natural" and will not be circumcised. Howard 100 News broadcasts an hourly summary of stories related to Howard Stern on Sirius Satellite Radio. 

Part of Murray's responsibilities as segment producer are to preinterview all of the guests and compile research notes for Stern to use during interviews. No doubt pre-interviewing Ron Low, who is an advocate of foreskin restoration and has appeared more than once on Stern's show, gave Murray something to think about. It's been widely reported that Murray won the Howard Stern staff I.Q. test with a score of 130. Yesterday's announcement is further proof that he's one smart cookie. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Defying Convention: An Interview With Miriam Pollack

Miriam Pollack is widely recognized within the anti-circumcision community as both a proud Jew and a dedicated opponent of genital cutting. She boldly, yet gently, speaks her mind, which has at times put her at odds with the two communities she holds most dear: the Jewish community and the community of intactivists. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eli Ungar-Sargon Debates “Kosher Sex” Author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on the Ethics of Jewish Circumcision

On July 18 at The Manhattan Jewish Experience a debate on the ethics of circumcision took place between documentary filmmaker Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of the book "Kosher Sex" and host of the TLC network's "Shalom In the Home." What follows are Eli Ungar-Sargon's introductory remarks. 


Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Eli Ungar-Sargon and I’m an independent filmmaker. My first feature-length documentary, “Cut” is an exploration of male circumcision and Jewish identity. I made the film, because I think that circumcision is a really interesting example of a problem that we don’t often discuss openly. Namely, what we as people who care about living both moral and Jewish lives are supposed to do when our own ethics conflict with Jewish law.The film will be coming back to New York at the end of September, so if what I say here tonight intrigues you, come up to me afterwards and I’ll send you an email with more details about the screening. 
Infant male circumcision is physically harmful, medically irresponsible, and morally wrong. It is also true that infant circumcision has been a central Jewish practice for at least 2500 years. I’ll come back to the religious side of this issue a little later, but for now, let’s focus on the practice divorced from its religious significance.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Brit Shalom: An Alternative Naming Ceremony


The bris (Yiddish) or brit (Hebrew) is nothing more than a covenantal naming ceremony for baby Jewish boys. Traditionally done on the eighth day of life, the baby is given his Jewish or Hebrew name, he is ushered into the community of Judaism, and his foreskin is removed. Until relatively recently, this patrilineal ceremony was reserved for males. 

Nowadays, we have similar naming ceremonies for baby girls, minus the genital cutting. In Hebrew, the term Brit Milah refers to ritual circumcision. Why not eliminate the cutting, and peacefully give baby boys a name which welcomes them into Judaism? The term Brit Shalom, “Covenant of Peace” is used to denote an alternative non-cutting naming ceremony. Other terms include Brit b’li Milah (Covenant without Cutting), Brit Chayim (Covenant of Life) and Brit Ben (Covenant for a Boy). Brit Bat being the term for a girl’s naming ceremony.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Blood, Sweat & Tears Lead Singer Protests Infant Circumcision


Talking genital integrity: performer Jason Paige sits down 
for an interview with Beyond the Bris host Rebecca Wald

Los Angeles performer Jason Paige wants the audience of his one-man comedy show to realize his song about his botched bris isn’t a joke. So he calls a few audience members to the stage and has them face him. The rest of the audience can’t see Jason as he pulls down his pants to reveal what he calls his “piercing,” a small hole in his penis through which he can--and does, for performances--dangle an earring. Proof to the crowd of his circumcision gone wrong comes as the audience participants return to their seats, stunned looks on their faces.