Friday, October 31, 2014

New Documentary Film on Wilhelm Reich In the Works

Jewish psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) wrote passionately against the practice of infant circumcision calling it "one of the worst treatments of children." Now there is a new documentary film in the works about Reich's life—and an active Kickstarter campaign to help fund what promises to be a very important project.

Kevin Hinchey, who is a co-director of the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust Fund in Rangely Maine, will write and direct the film. He says it will set the record straight about Reich's life and legacy, using the best available historical materials.

Beyond the Bris hopes this important project gets the funding it needs—and that perhaps Reich's views on the harmfulness of circumcision will be mentioned in the documentary. Today parents from all walks are questioning the practice that Reich so abhorred. Perhaps the circumcision issue will spark a renewed interest in Reich among today's young parents and parents-to-be.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Less than 2 Days to Fund "Celebrating Brit Shalom"

Books gifted to U.S. rabbis will be matched!

Non-circumcising Jewish families will now be able to have a beautiful prayer book of alternative bris ceremonies, thanks our successful Kickstarter campaign. The campaign wraps up at 6:00 A.M. Friday—so it's not too late to help us reach our stretch goal of getting our book to U.S. rabbis.

An anonymous donor likes our idea of gifting the book to rabbis and synagogue libraries so much that he has agreed to match all pledges book-for-book from now until the end of the campaign! We have three options for gifting the book (1, 4, and 10 copies) as well as other backer rewards. Help us send a clear message that today's Jewish families are celebrating brit shalom! Funding above our goal will also go to added publicity, e-commerce start-up, and many other endeavors.

Help us show the world just how many people support Jewish ritual choice for families, like mine, that have opted not to circumcise. Please make the last hours of our campaign count by boosting our backer numbers! You can raise our numbers with as little as a $1 pledge and your name doesn't have to be public—just choose an unidentifiable Kickstarter profile name if you wish to be anonymous.          

Meanwhile, the forthcoming "Celebrating Brit Shalom" continues to make news. Recent press includes "A New Alternative to Jewish Circumcision," (Ozy, June 29.) Jewish circumcision critic Brian Levitt wore his "Celebrating Brit Shalom" t-shirt during a Huffington Post Live segment on men who resent their circumcision (June 28). My own op/ed "Considering Brit Shalom?" appeared in the Boulder Jewish News (July 22). Co-author Lisa Braver Moss and I have just returned from Genital Autonomy 2014 where we spoke about our upcoming book to an audience of fellow activists, the public and reporters.  

As our campaign draws to a close, we look forward to keeping you in the loop with future news about "Celebrating Brit Shalom" and the broader Jewish movement to question circumcision. A deep and heartfelt thanks to all who have backed us with pledges large and small. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kickstarter Campaign for Brit Shalom Book Funded!

By Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald

We have wonderful news to report! Celebrating Brit Shalom is fully funded and will be available this fall. We look forward to finalizing the book and music, getting rewards to backers, and making the book and songs widely available to meet the ceremonial needs of Jewish families opting out of circumcision.

Each and every one of your contributions represents a step in the right direction for humanity, and we are so grateful. All children deserve a peaceful welcome into the world, and that’s what Celebrating Brit Shalom is all about.


In the Jewish tradition, Elijah is considered to be the angel protector of children. We would like to take this moment to specially recognize our “Elijah backers” thus far—those whose extreme generosity has pushed us over the top before our funding deadline.

So far, our Elijah backers include Brian Levitt, The Barefoot Intactivist, Doctors Opposing Circumcision, T. Campbell Jackson, George Vuckovic of Tilted Planet, and Olivier Zimmermann of Intact Switzerland. Together, these backers are responsible for more than 50% of our funding to date.

Now that we’ve met our Kickstarter goal, we have the opportunity to move into the “stretch funding” phase of our campaign. Meeting our initial goal means the project will go forward. Stretch funding—which can be raised through Kickstarter through July 31st—will help to ensure that Celebrating Brit Shalom is seen by the widest possible audience.

To this end, we’ve added a new reward. For a $180 pledge (“ten chai”) we will send a copy of our book to 10 different rabbis or other officiants from our carefully compiled list. We will only send a book to those officiants whom we’ve contacted first, and who really want a copy. If you have particular officiants in mind, please let us know.

Many of our other rewards are still in place, so please continue to feel free to back us at any level you like. We are deeply grateful for your ongoing support.

We are so excited about being able to put this book and music out into the world!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Kickstarter Update: "Tablet" Article, Two New Glick Books Added

By Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald


Hello! We are so thrilled by the excitement and support that our forthcoming book, Celebrating Brit Shalom, is generating. A few days ago, Tablet Magazine published a long feature article about alternatives to Jewish circumcision—and our Kickstarter campaign was prominently mentioned.

On June 26, Lisa wrote a wonderful piece for the Huffington Post about brit shalom families. And Dr. Mark Reiss has just returned from Israel, where he connected with many Humanist rabbis there who are willing to perform brit shalom—a connection that was made after one of those rabbis found our project and reached out to us! Dr. Reiss' Celebrants of Brit Shalom list now has 200 officiants—12 of whom are in Israel.

In two weeks we'll be heading to Boulder, Colorado for the Genital Autonomy 2014 conference, where Lisa will be speaking about non-circumcising families in the Jewish community and Rebecca will be speaking about this web site. Additionally, Lisa and Rebecca will be presenting together about the Celebrating Brit Shalom book and song project. We'll be sharing greater detail about the ceremonies we plan to include in the book, as well as playing a sneak-peak of the songs.

As of today, we're 64% funded. We have $2,884 left to raise to fund our all-or-nothing campaign—so if you've been meaning to back us but just haven't gotten around to it yet, please don't delay. To help our efforts, cultural anthropologist Leonard B. Glick has just donated two signed copies of his wonderful book, Marked In Your Flesh (Oxford University Press 2005)—and we've added them as rewards at the $60 level. We'll also include a copy of Celebrating Brit Shalom and the songs, when they're released in the fall.

For those of you on Facebook, when you come across news about our project, please "Share" liberally. (Of course, feel free to spread the word first as well.) A Facebook "Share" can be priceless, with its power to let new people know about the Jewish movement to question circumcision. Thanks so much for your support!

Bris Without Cutting Officiant List Tops 200

The movement to name newborn Jewish boys without the surgery of circumcision has reached a milestone—200 celebrants (officiants) are available to perform the ceremony. More than 120 of these are rabbis.

Called brit shalom (Hebrew for covenant of peace), this alternative naming ceremony may correspond in most ways with traditional brit milah, except that there is no cutting of the baby.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Genital Autonomy Symposium 2014

The 13th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights, “Whole Bodies, Whole Selves: Activating Social Change,” will be hosted at the University of Colorado—Boulder on July 24-26, 2014.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Beautiful Brit Shalom in America

Courtesy of Amira Gaynor

"When we planned this Brit Shalom for our son, we struggled to find appropriate Jewish content for the ceremony. It was difficult to figure out which content honored the Jewish tradition of welcoming a Jewish boy to the community without honoring/performing the circumcision. Having a Jewish resource to guide the ceremony would have been a valuable resource. I wish "Celebrating Brit Shalom" had been available four years ago!" 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Thank G-d, It's a Girl

By EMILY KAPIT
I was not scared of labor and delivery; in fact, I was looking forward to it. I had a great team of supporters (husband, doctor, a doula), was prepared to labor using hypnobirthing, and really excited to meet our little one. I was, however, utterly terrified of a piece of paper, tucked inside an envelope with three simple words on an index card: It's a ____.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Circumcision Not Matter for Rabbinical Courts, Israel's High Court Rules

Israeli Mother Opposes Circumcision for Young Son

Today Israel’s High Court of Justice issued an unprecedented ruling—rabbinical courts in that country no longer have the authority to determine whether boys will be circumcised should divorcing parents disagree on the matter.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Brit Shalom Families—Where's the Controversy

By LISA BRAVER MOSS
"You know I love you, Lisa, but about circumcision — well, can't we just agree to disagree?"

As a Jewish woman who opposes circumcision, I often get this kind of conversational preempt from friends and family. It's an occupational hazard of writing about such a highly-charged topic: people seem to think I'm looking for a fight.


In truth, I'm exhausted by the litany of pros and cons. Circumcision causes pain (just look at this list of benefits!). Foreskin tissue is erogenous (circumcision is more hygienic!). It's unethical to make this decision for an infant (parents have to make decisions about their children's health all the time!). And on and on -- a veritable Wimbleton of volleys back and forth, each of which is but a few Google clicks away from support or refutation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Circumcision Is Best, But Families Opting Out Should Be Embraced—An Interview With Conservative Rabbi Joshua Ratner

"Jewish families who want to be part of congregational Judaism—whether or not their sons have been circumcised—should be not only included in Jewish life but embraced!"

Rabbi Joshua Ratner
Beyond the Bris: Can you talk a little about your background? What branch of Judaism are you associated with? 

Rabbi Ratner: I grew up in a warm, loving Jewish home in San Diego. I attended Conservative and later Orthodox Day School but never thought I would become a rabbi. I was a huge fan of the TV shows "LA Law" and "Perry Mason" and assumed I would someday become a lawyer. I left home for Columbia University and there found myself fascinated by the study of different cultures and religions. I wound up graduating with a degree in comparative religion and spent some time after college studying in Israel. Nevertheless, I continued with my plan to become a lawyer and wound up practicing law—first in New York, and later in Connecticut—for about five years.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bris Without Circumcision—With Your Help, Coming Soon to a Rabbi Near You!



Wouldn’t it be fantastic if every rabbi and Jewish congregation in the U.S. had a guidebook about Brit Shalom—the emerging ritual to welcome newborn boys into the Jewish faith without circumcision? It's certainly a worthwhile goal, and now you can help to make this a reality. 

We’ve just added two VERY SPECIAL new rewards to our Kickstarter campaign. For a $20 pledge, we’ll send a copy of our forthcoming book, “Celebrating Brit Shalom,” to a rabbi or congregation library. For a $75 pledge, we’ll be able to send the book to FOUR rabbis and/or congregations!

If you have a particular officiant or Temple that you’d like to share our book with, let us know and we’ll make it happen. Otherwise, we’ll select a lucky rabbi from our thoughtfully compiled master list.

Our Kickstarter campaign got off to a roaring start. Just 48-hours into our launch and we were nearly 40% funded. However our good beginning only took us so far. We are currently one week into our campaign and things have slowed considerably. We still need to raise more than 50% of our goal. That means we are a LONG way off. Some might say at this point: “Give it up!” “Admit defeat!” “Pack up your book and song project and go home!”

Well, here at Beyond the Bris, overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges is nothing new. If we can be a catalyst for evolving a 5000 year-old Jewish tradition, I think we can do anything. But we can’t do it alone.

Now with the addition of two new and important rewards—and at a crucial point in our time-limited campaign—there is no better time to visit our Kickstarter campaign and become a backer!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Improving Conversation on Jewish Circumcision




Infant circumcision is a highly charged topic—add in the element of religion and it's a potential powder keg. Yet the movement to end the non-therapeutic sexual cutting of children depends on thoughtful and respectful conversation. Saving Our Sons is wonderful grassroots organization that educates the public about the harms of infant circumcision. Beyond the Bris is so thankful to them for publishing a guest post by Rebecca Wald, Talking Jewish Circumcision (Especially When You Aren't Jewish).

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Wonderful "Misadventure"—Brian Leaf's Newest Yogi Book

By REBECCA WALD


I recently discovered author Brian Leaf and I’m so glad I did. He is the voice of my generation of naturally-minded parents. He is caring, sensible, smart and funny. I’d like to think that if our paths had crossed, we would be friends.

Leaf is an accomplished writer with 12 books already to his credit, including two humorous biographies. He’s also a frequent Mothering.com blogger. I’ve just read his second biography, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi (2014). It’s really, really good. That means a lot to me on a personal level. Now that I have three kids, I rarely get to sit down with a book. When I do, I have high hopes since this may be the only book I get to read for the next year—or decade—given that my youngest is still an infant. Thanks, Brian, for not letting me down!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kickstarter campaign launches for first-ever book on “brit shalom,” an alternative to Jewish circumcision



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oakland, California — Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald, both known for their writings questioning Jewish circumcision, have launched a 45-day Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the completion of a book to serve Jewish families who decide not to circumcise. They are hoping to raise $8,200 to complete the project with their campaign, which begins June 17th.

The book will offer a choice of several original “brit shalom” ceremonies, along with tips and advice on holding the service and navigating family dynamics. Brit shalom (Hebrew for “covenant of peace”) is gaining traction as an alternative to brit milah, the traditional circumcision service held on a Jewish boy’s eighth day of life.

“Young Jewish parents are really engaged in the circumcision debate,” says Wald. “Some are opting out of the rite, but they still want to bring their newborn sons into the Abrahamic covenant.” Wald is the publisher of Beyond the Bris, a website that brings together Jewish voices that question brit milah. “Typically, a ceremony is put together on the fly. We wanted to provide well-researched and Jewishly respectful materials for this emerging ritual.”

“Currently there’s no book about brit shalom,” says Moss, a novelist and nonfiction writer who has been interviewing congregational rabbis while writing the book. She’s found that non-circumcising families are welcome in many synagogues, and rabbis are often willing to officiate at a brit shalom. “The Jewish community gains vitality by including these families,” she says.

One distinctive feature of the project is that an album of songs is being composed and professionally recorded. The songs are being produced by renowned performer Jason Paige, who recently wrapped up a tour as lead singer of the touring band Blood, Sweat and Tears. The songs will accompany the ceremonies, and will be available for parents and rabbis to download.

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform for creative projects.

For more information on the book project please visit CelebratingBritShalom.com and the Celebrating Brit Shalom Kickstarter campaign.
Eve Ceremony-94.jpgIMG_2456 - Version 2.jpg
  
Rebecca Wald         Lisa Braver Moss

# # # # #

BIOS

Lisa Braver Moss is a writer specializing in family issues, health, Judaism and humor. Her essays have appeared in such places as The Huffington PostTikkunParents and The San Francisco Chronicle. She is the author of The Measure of His Grief (Notim Press, 2010), the first novel ever written about the circumcision controversy. Lisa's nonfiction book credits include Celebrating Family: Our Lifelong Bonds with Parents and Siblings (Wildcat Canyon Press, 1999).

Rebecca Wald is the publisher of Beyond the Bris, a news and opinion website about the Jewish movement to question infant circumcision. Beyond the Bris has received widespread attention, and has been written about in The New York TimesThe Huffington PostVillage Voice, TikkunThe Jewish Daily ForwardHaaretz, and The Times of Israel, among others. Rebecca is a graduate of The George Washington University and of Brooklyn Law School.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Countdown to Kickstarter for First-Ever Book on Celebrating Brit Shalom



By REBECCA WALD

Today I have some big news that I am excited to share. I’ve recently been working on a project with my dear friend Lisa Braver Moss. We’ve been putting together a book for families who want to hold a brit shalom ceremony for their newborn sons.

If you aren’t familiar—brit shalom is an alternative to brit milah. The baby is given a Hebrew name and welcomed into the Jewish community without circumcision. By all indicators, brit shalom is becoming evermore popular. For example, Dr. Mark Reiss’s Brit Shalom Providers List now boasts nearly 200 officiants—more than 100 of whom are bona fide rabbis.

Lisa and I decided it was time for a book about brit shalom, one that families and officiants could turn to for advice and inspiration. The book will include a choice of ceremonies, original songs, information about brit shalom and tips for hosting a service.

On June 17—that’s one week from today—we’ll be launching a 45-day Kickstarter campaign to officially announce our book, Celebrating Brit Shalom, and to raise needed funding so we can bring this book to the public.

If you haven't heard of it, Kickstarter is a crowd-funding platform for creative projects, where "backers" receive great rewards at different funding levels.

Why do we need funding? We decided to “go-indie” (instead of seeking out a traditional publisher). This means we’re doing everything ourselves, from cover design, typesetting and graphic art to promotion and distribution. Since we’ll be including music that will be recorded and available for download, we also have expenses like professional mastering of the songs.

This Fall, we hope to get our book into the hands of prospective parents, congregational rabbis, synagogue libraries, Jewish and interfaith officiants—wherever and to whomever it takes to get our message out that a beautiful ritual exists to welcome intact Jewish boys. If we meet our Kickstarter goal, we can produce the book. If we are fortunate enough to go above and beyond our fundraising goal, we’ll be able to accomplish even more: like sending out library/donation copies, doing increased promotion, and translating the book into other languages, such as Hebrew.

Imagine a book like this in the hands of every rabbi in the U.S., Canada and beyond—What a difference it could make. What a message it would send! You can help us achieve this goal.

How can you help? First of all, get excited with us about this groundbreaking book. When the campaign goes live on June 17, share the news far and wide. Have media contacts? Let them know. A rich uncle? Well, you get the idea! Also, if you have something special you’d be willing to donate as a reward to our backers, please contact us.

An easy way to get in touch with us for any reason is via the “Inquiries” field on our new website. There's also a place on the site where you can enter your email address to receive updates about our project. And, if you feel so inclined, "Like" our brand new Facebook page.

While we’re eager to meet our fundraising goal, what we’re really hoping for is a big show of support for our project, especially early on in the campaign. When the time comes, you can go on to Kickstarter and become a project backer for as little as one dollar. That’s really all it takes to support us—and to show the world that nothing, not even religion, stands in the way of a child’s right to the body he was born with. 

And save the date: On June 17, 2014, at 8PM EST we’re having a Kickstarter Kick-Off Virtual Party, where we'll be giving away vouchers for some free copies of our book (and the downloadable songs) that can be redeemed when publication becomes a reality. To enter to win a voucher, all you need to do is say you'll attend our cyber event.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jewish Voices Against Circumcision — In Their Own Words

Brian Levitt holds his newborn photo
in protest of infant circumcision. 
Jewish feelings about circumcision—for and against—are complex. The following quotes, all of them by Jewish people and all of them real, demonstrate the diversity of thought when it comes to questioning the ancient ritual. If you are Jewish and would like to add your quote, send Beyond the Bris a note and we'll include your statement in a future posting.

Lisa says:


I believe that G-d instituted circumcision as a way of setting His people apart, but given how many other cultures and religions have adopted this practice, it is no longer a means of setting apart. Like many other commandments once practiced by Jews (that have now been set aside) there is now no more compelling religious or cultural reason to do so. I have a now-adult son for whom we had a “brit shalom” (no cutting) when he was eight days old.... This doesn’t make him any less Jewish or any less observant. He is a respected young man at shul, involved in many different areas and loved by all. I do not regret my decision at all to let him make his own choice, and it is my hope that other Jewish parents will also consider a brit shalom as a viable alternative to brit milah.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Is Superman Circumcised? Howard Stern Weighs In


By REBECCA WALD

Superman has captured the imagination of every generation of American kids since 1938 when he first appeared in Action Comics #1, but leave it to satellite radio celebrity Howard Stern to tackle the really hard questions concerning this American superhero.

Monday’s The Howard Stern Show kicked off with a call-in question from Stern show correspondent Wolfie asking: Is Superman circumcised? “Of course the first question would likely be, how on Krypton would they come up with that barbaric ritual of cutting off a piece of a baby’s skin?” Stern asked. “Now Krypton was a very advanced society, as you know. They were very advanced in science and you would assume that on Krypton they would not practice circumcision,” he continued.

Robin Quivers pondered whether Superman might be able to circumcise himself using his heat vision. To which Stern replied: “Why would any guy want to circumcise himself?”

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why I Didn't Choose Circumcision

BY Brian Leaf
I'm a bit depressed. Our midwife gave me a book about circumcision. I've started the book and can't put it down. I'm not sure that I'll ever fully recover.

The book tells me that the foreskin is like an eyelid protecting the sensitive mucous membrane underneath. Circumcision removes this protective skin, so the skin underneath keratinizes, meaning it hardens and desensitizes, like a callus. Therefore, the book posits, circumcision removes length and girth from the penis and decreases enjoyment of sex.

You do not say these things to a man. I'm trying to climb out of the hole. I tell myself that most men in the United States are circumcised, so it's a level playing field. It just means that uncircumcised men are heroes and that we are at a disadvantage when we leave the country.

Now, keep in mind that whether or not sex is less pleasurable without a foreskin is, of course, very difficult to test. Nobody is lining up for a double-blind controlled study: Have sex. Rate it on a scale from 1 to 10. Then lose the foreskin, heal, have sex again with the same partner, and rate it again from 1 to 10. Any takers?

So it's difficult to test the reduced-pleasure hypothesis. And people don't talk about it much, so we don't gather much anecdotal evidence, either. Unless you are a professional sex worker or my friend Adeline, you probably rarely talk about sex, especially the specifics. I don't even know which of my friends have a foreskin and which don't. Maybe I'll ask the question on Facebook: "Share or Like if you have a foreskin."

We all know about circumcision's Jewish roots in the covenant between God and Abraham, but whom do we have to thank for the mass popularization of circumcision? When did it cross the gentile line? In Victorian England, of course. Yes, the same folks who made sex and farting socially unacceptable. Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow owe Queen Victoria big-time. What if nudity, masturbation, and farting weren't funny?

In the 1800s, germ theory was gaining attention and people believed circumcision could fight the ultimate germ demon, smegma. Sounds like a Batman villain. They incorrectly believed smegma to be a breeding ground of bacteria. This is hogwash. Smegma is actually found in most animal genitalia and, in fact, serves to clean and lubricate the genitals, moistening the sensitive mucous membrane between the foreskin and the penis. The word smegma itself is Greek for soap.

Circumcision was the new snake oil. It was touted to prevent or cure syphilis, epilepsy, hernia, headache, clubfoot, alcoholism, gout, and, god forbid, masturbation! As I read older parenting books, I am absolutely astonished at how often people bring up masturbation. They were obsessed. "We must stop this epidemic!" I suppose things have changed. Just last night I watched Seth Rogen masturbate right on screen at the cinema.

Lots of folks, these days, defer the decision of whether or not to circumcise to the thinking of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Seems sensible. But the AAP is about as reliable on the matter as Steve Martin's Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber. The AAP has flip-flopped its position at least four times. In 1971 the academy officially concluded that it was not a medical necessity. In 1989 they announced that there were good medical reasons for it. In 1999 they were neutral, stating in a report that the health benefits of the procedure were slim. And most recently, in 2012, the AAP changed their official stance, saying that the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks.

One of the founders of the American Medical Association, Lewis Sayre, in the late 1800s started recommending circumcision to cure paralysis and gross motor problems. He believed that a tight foreskin threw off the nervous system. "Hmm, this patient is paralyzed. Must be a tight penis."

All this is another perfect example of why we must, in parenting as in life, gather data, but ultimately stay grounded and follow our own hearts and intuition.

In the end, my wife and I chose not to circumcise. People ask me, "What will you tell your son when he asks why his penis is different from yours?" I don't understand this concern. Why must his penis match mine? Our hair color is different. We have different noses and his teeth are better than mine. Should he get braces and a retainer to mimic my overbite?

Brian Leaf is the author of Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi. He has studied, practiced, and taught yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda for twenty-three years. Visit him online on facebook at www.facebook.com/Misadventures.of.a.Yogi. The above essay is excerpted from the new book Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi ©2014 by Brian Leaf. Published with permission of New World Library. 



Friday, May 16, 2014

Belly Casts Give Confidence, Celebrate Beauty of the Natural Form

Kirsten Seinfeld puts finishing touches on a belly cast.

Our bodies are beautiful—and perfect—the way they are. This is the message of the pregnancy belly cast, a commemorative keepsake of motherhood that’s become very popular. Check out belly cast Google images, or Pinterest, and you’ll see dozens of belly cast examples, often created right at home by moms- and dads-to-be. They range from whimsical (adorned with feather boas and butterflies) to humorous (the round belly is painted like a baseball) and irreverent (a monkey’s nose becomes the protruding belly button).


Fort Lauderdale artist Kirsten Seinfeld would like to elevate the pregnancy belly cast to high art. She envisions one day having a show with twenty bellies, or more, on display in a gallery. She’s already well on her way, with dozens of casts hanging in her living room. Seinfeld is known in South Florida as the go-to girl for an incredible belly cast—and she's been known to give moms a price break if she can do two castings, one to keep for her private (future gallery) collection.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Is Brit Shalom an Acceptable Alternative to Jewish Circumcision?


Foot washing replaces circumcision in
the alternative brit pictured above. 

Is there an alternative to circumcision? This question was recently posed to two rabbis in The Jewish Chronicle Online’s “Rabbi I Have a Problem” section. At issue, an outraged uncle whose niece had decided not to circumcise her newborn son and instead held an alternative brit. Despite the growing popularity of Brit Shalom, one has to wonder: was this question really sent in by a reader or dreamed up by an editor on a slow news day? Regardless, I appreciated the response of both rabbis who weighed in. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

In New Book, Jewish Actress Alicia Silverstone Writes on Decision Not to Circumcise

Apparently Alicia Silverstone isn’t so clueless. This Jewish mom stood up to some family pressure and decided not to circumcise her newborn son. She writes about the experience in her new book The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning (2014).

Silverstone was raised in a traditional Jewish household, where candles were lit on Friday nights. She went to Hebrew school and has fond memories of her bat mitzvah. As an adult, her ties to Judaism remain strong.

“Judaism turned me into who I am today, and I definitely feel I live a very spiritual life. I got that from my parents,” she has said.

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.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ethical Issues in Israel's Bizarre Circumcision Case


By REBECCA WALD

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.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why This (Jewish) Mom Skipped Circumcision

By REBECCA WALD


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




By YECHIEL WEISS


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

By MARK MORRIS


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.
By SHAWN STARK

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

By REBECCA WALD

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. 
By JENNIFER MARGULIS

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

By FRANCELLE WAX
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

By RICHARD SCHWARTZMAN, D.O.

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

By MOLLY MCFLY

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. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

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

By REBECCA WALD

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

By MOLLY MCFLY

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


By REBECCA WALD

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

By ELIYAHU UNGAR-SARGON


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.

Although we are a marginal voice within the Jewish community, there have always been Jewish opponents to Brit Milah. It makes me proud that some of us are leading the current movement against this cruel and unusual practice both within the Jewish community and in the world at large.

Even as the world abandons the unethical practice of infant male circumcision, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised its policy statement to more strongly recommend it. In response to this step backwards, people of conscience all over the world have been protesting the AAP’s misguided decision by posting on Facebook photographs of themselves with the words “AAP” on one hand and “No Ethics” on the other.

As a proud Jew and an opponent of infant male circumcision, I wanted to join this protest in a meaningful way. It is my belief that a deep concern for ethics lies at the core of the Jewish tradition and it is this concern, along with the ability to adapt to new information, that gives meaning and relevance to my heritage in the 21st century.

Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon is a documentary filmmaker. His film "Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision looks critically at the ancient ritual from a Jewish perspective. The "Wash Your Hands Clean of the APP" Facebook the campaign was started by the Whole Network.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Circumcision Resource Center Responds to Revised AAP Statement

By REBECCA WALD

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

By AMY SOULE
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

By ERAN SADEH

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

By RONALD GOLDMAN

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

By KAREN RANZI

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

By REBECCA WALD

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.