Why Are Some Rabbis Secretly Choosing Not to Circumcise Their Sons?


When circumcision critic Lisa Braver Moss learned that half the boys attending her synagogue preschool had not been circumcised, she was stunned. Soon after, Lisa discovered that even some rabbis were secretly choosing to leave their boys intact. In this short but groundbreaking new video, Lisa Braver Moss uncovers the “don’t ask/don’t tell” policies that are keeping the exploding Jewish movement to reject circumcision shrouded in secrecy.

Simply Uncut: The Intersection Between Today’s Simple Living and Pro-Intact Movements


By REBECCA WALD

I recently watched “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” Available on Netflix, the film profiles Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus —two great guys whose podcasts I’ve been enjoying for some time. They call themselves The Minimalists and put a modern spin on the age-old concept of doing more with less.

In my early 20s, I was an avid reader of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) who wrote of the benefits of living a simple life close to nature. Ideas that ring true tend to turn up everywhere. Thoreau was by no means the first — or only — simple living advocate. Ancient Indian texts, Zen philosophy, and a great many other religious and cultural movements have extolled the virtues of pairing down. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about the “ascetic ideal.”

Today, 21st century incarnations of the simple living paradigm abound. Books, blogs, documentary films, and online communities are devoted to topics such as de-cluttering, tiny houses, anti-consumerism, downsizing, efficiency, conscious consumption, homesteading, slow living, and frugality — just to name a few! I enjoy dipping into all of this. While I am by no means a minimalist, much of what is being discussed appeals to me, no doubt for the same reasons that it appeals to so many others.  

Living the simple life means embracing what is essential and valuable and doing away with (or at least minimizing) the rest. It means looking critically at those things we are being “sold” to evaluate whether they add value to our lives or get in the way of our happiness. Choosing people and experiences over things provides opportunities to spend more time connecting with loved ones while also connecting with the outdoors.     

Just as today’s simple living movement is gaining in popularity, so too is the American trend to look critically at routine infant circumcision. The non-therapeutic circumcision of babies is among the most discussed topics on the web. Circumcision rates in the U.S. are at historic lows. Millenials “get it” and are (or will) be opting their kids out in record numbers. Interestingly, simple living and questioning circumcision share common ground.      

Infant circumcision not only adds unneeded suffering to a baby’s first days of life, it also adds unneeded complexity. The procedure must be planned for, the wound must be cared for, and — of course — the bill must be paid. Circumcision is just one more thing we’re encouraged to buy for our babies. If a complication arises, as it often does, there is added stress, late night phone calls, trips to the doctor, and expense. Revision surgeries are common and comprise the bread-and-butter of many American pediatric urology practices.

Circumcision’s defenders often cite “health benefits” although the studies are conflicting and largely inconclusive. Pointing to the alleged health benefits is a socially acceptable justification for circumcision that is hard to argue. Everyone wants children to be healthy, right? I’ve always suspected that those who point to the health benefits are really motivated by other, less socially acceptable, reasons. Like fashion.

Circumcision is a matter of fashion. People who are only familiar with the circumcised penis believe this is how all penises should look. It’s not much different than society’s expectation that women shave their armpits. Isn’t it a matter of style or fashion when people say a baby “should look like his father” or look the way others in the community expect?

Simplicity movements eschew jumping on the bandwagon of style in favor of substance and functionality. The natural penis functions the way nature intended, being capable of giving and receiving more pleasure than the penis whose erogenous tissues have been forever stripped away.  

Being more thoughtful, more intentional, and less easily sold — this is the crux of today’s minimalism movement and also the crux of today’s pro-intact trend.

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Book for Jewish Families Skipping Circumcision Continues to Gain Traction

It's hard to believe that this May marks the two-year anniversary of the official release of "Celebrating Brit Shalom," a book of alternative bris ceremonies for Jewish families who have decided not to circumcise their newborn sons. 

Written with my delightful co-author and partner in crime, Lisa Braver Moss, we knew from the start that our book would be targeted to a niche audience of progressive Jewish parents opting out of the circumcision ritual, and to rabbis open-minded enough to meet this ceremonial need. 

Today we measure our success quite differently from most other book authors. We were never expecting to sell millions of books — or even thousands. After all, the number of Jewish families expecting sons, who don't wish to circumcise, and do wish to have an alternative bris is quite small. With such a narrow intended audience, way back when, we turned to Kickstarter to help fund our project. And we remain deeply thankful to all those who saw the value of what we were doing and supported us. 

So how are we doing two years after the book's release? I think pretty well. Every month we sell books — no longer to the friends and family who initially supported us and bought our book as a Kickstarter reward, but to those for whom the book was truly written: Jewish families expecting a son and planning to keep him intact. 

Our book sales are by no means through the roof. So far, this May, we've sold just three units. Other authors would likely be hanging their heads low over this number, but Lisa and I view this as an enormous success. Think about it. So far, this month, that's three Jewish families who are not only opting out, and choosing alternative bris, but who also found our book and followed through with a purchase. 

"Celebrating Brit Shalom" also continues to be a topic of conversation, thanks to Lisa's knack for public speaking, and her belief that Jewish parents shouldn't be pressured to go against their heartfelt instinct to protect their boys from the pain and lifelong physical and emotional consequences of circumcision. 

Last May, Lisa spoke at Temple Sinai in Oakland California. This June, she'll be speaking again. This time at the JCC East Bay in Berkeley