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.

In addition to attachment parenting, my book focuses on the extraordinary benefits of fresh plant-based nutrition for the health and wellbeing of the entire family. Families living with abundant living foods, fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, and some nuts and seeds, reap numerous health rewards while also eliminating the main cause of illness, the horrendous food choices of the standard American diet.

Eating raw foods, parenting naturally, and even questioning circumcision are not ideas I came to entirely on my own. They are family traditions. In the early 1920s, my paternal grandmother had been extremely ill with severe asthma and emphysema. She was a single mother, and since my father was only four years old at the time of her illness, she had a strong motivation to survive. The doctors told my grandmother she had only several months to live. She then read a book that had been recently published, titled The Mucusless Diet Healing System by Arnold Ehret. She was impressed and decided to transition first to a vegetarian, and then to a vegan diet, and gradually toward a diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. She recovered from her illnesses and lived another fifty years.

Avoiding Circumcision Surgery

My grandmother also refused to follow the circumcision tradition and chose to leave her son—my father—intact. This is remarkable given that she made this choice as a Jewish woman in America in the 1920s when Jewish circumcision was the unquestioned norm. As a single parent, she devoted her life to caring for her son. She knew that circumcision would sever the bond between them, and cause him excruciating pain, physically and emotionally. She refused circumcision in New Jersey and left her son intact because she was a very strong-minded individual who followed her mothering instincts.

My father grew up in Chatham NJ where Jews were a minority. He was often left out of social activities because he was a Jew. My grandmother and my father were ostracized because of their diet and their beliefs, which were viewed as undesirable and strange. Students at school forced ham down my father’s throat and often made fun of him, but he stuck with his values and believed in his mother’s message.

Circumcision Controversy

Today, I myself delve into topics that are controversial and are often shunned or ignored. While I have received overwhelming positive feedback on the chapters in my book dedicated to attachment parenting and raw foods, I have also been told the circumcision information in chapter 4, titled “Discovering the Truth about Circumcision,” is not the truth. Some have erroneously expressed to me that circumcision surgery enhances sex for the man and the woman. Many of those giving these comments are alarmed when they first hear about circumcision trauma or when they read the chapter, suddenly becoming defensive about a circumcision procedure they have supported their entire lives. When I discuss this topic during my classes, including circumcision complications, sometimes one or two upset people leave the room.

Some have even changed their minds about writing a review of my book after reading the circumcision facts chapter. There have been times when I asked for a testimonial following a workshop, and my request has been denied because the director of an association or principal of a school is pro-circumcision. Some have suggested I remove the controversial chapter to avoid the hostility. However, I feel the information is important for everyone, especially parents yet to make a circumcision decision. I am willing to face any anger and resistance.

I have also received praise for my courage to include circumcision facts. The editor of an attachment parenting magazine, who wrote a review of Creating Healthy Children, told me she used my book as a positive example in another review. The other author, a pediatrician, had avoided the subject of circumcision surgery, saying it was beyond the scope of her book on health and attachment parenting. The editor of the magazine wrote to her, saying my book was about raw foods and I still included 11 pages of information on circumcision, including two pages of sources for more information. The editor thanked me for including the chapter, as the circumcision controversy brings out strong emotions, but for the sake of the babies it affects, she felt it’s cowardly to avoid it out of fear of offending.

Choosing Brit Shalom

We must continue to educate about the harmfulness of circumcision for newborns so those who are resistant to change this old ritual will realize it’s cruel, unhealthy, and causes a severe blow to the psyche of our speechless baby boys. The bris ceremony can be replaced with a ceremony called brit shalom, the covenant of peace, which celebrates the complete intact child. As some rabbis begin to abolish brit milah, I am hopeful that even religious Jews will understand it’s time for change, and that they will not be less religious for choosing to part with Jewish circumcision.

It’s time for a major shift. As Creating Healthy Children is spread far and wide, my dream is that readers will come to understand not only the benefits of a raw food lifestyle but also circumcision trauma. When more people become comfortable speaking out about circumcision complications and lifelong circumcision effects, protecting our precious newborn boys will become the norm.

The health of our children affects everyone on the planet. The advice in the book is for raising healthy children, and healthy adults as well, on all levels of wellbeing. Attachment parenting, which includes understanding the negative circumcision effects, and eating raw foods are philosophically connected because they are vital in raising physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy human beings.

By avoiding the standard processed food diet, which is inexorably linked to medical treatment so accepted in our society, children learn to listen to their bodies and to Nature. As parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our children about the superior foods and to provide the tender loving care so needed throughout the growing years.

4 comments:

  1. Wonderful! I don't see anywhere that circumcision fits into Attachment parenting ideals.

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  2. It's wonderful that your father taught you to question everything, and that you keep doing it. The problem with most pro-circ people is that they are not willing to question what they were told about circumcision. I applaud your decision to speak up. This is a wonderful statement: " I am hopeful that even religious Jews will understand it’s time for change, and that they will not be less religious for choosing to part with Jewish circumcision."

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  3. When your parents are dead, consider sharing more, anonymously if you prefer, about how your family became an intact Jewish family, how your father dealt with and talked about it, how much was shared with you, how your mother met and married your father, and whether you have any brothers, and what they think of your unusual moral commitment.

    Before WWII, there were many totally secular Jewish families, who welcomed assimilation with American society, and whose first love was progressive politics. I am confident that a number of such families declined to circumcise their boys. Your father and grandmother were, I think, cases in point. But such families kept this decision private, as was their right, and so the myth sprang up that ALL Jews are circumcised.

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  4. Both my parents are dead but there is not much more I can share. My father never talked about it but one time to me many years ago. I don't have any brothers, only a sister, and she chose to circumcise her children.

    You are right that this was kept private. You're right to assume there must be other Jews who chose that same path but kept it quiet.

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