… Hitchens lunges at male circumcision. He claims that it is a medically dangerous procedure that has made countless lives miserable. This will come as news to the Jewish community, where male circumcision is universal…
I briefly challenged that in my entry about the review. Although it’s from Canada, this story adds to the clear distinction that the reviewer, Anthony Gottlieb, is pushing his belief as a fact, presumably because it sounds correct so it must be correct.
Growing up in Victoria, Alana Moon went to Jewish school, attended synagogue most Saturdays and celebrated the Sabbath.
But when her son, Amani, was born, Ms. Moon couldn’t rationalize the idea of making her newborn go through elective surgery. She refused to have him circumcised – and joined a small but growing number of Jews who are rejecting an ancient, fundamental tenet of their faith.
In recent decades, circumcision rates have plummeted in hospitals across Canada, largely because of the medical consensus that the practice doesn’t have the health benefits once believed. Increasingly vocal members of the anti-circumcision lobby, who say the process is unnecessary and barbaric, have also played a role.
Now, a Jewish wing has joined their ranks, including a small number of scholars and rabbis, support groups and websites. They point out that a circumcised penis isn’t required to make someone Jewish, even according to Orthodox law. An alternative bris ceremony, minus the surgery, is gaining ground among Jews opposed to circumcision.
I won’t hold my breath waiting for a retraction from the reviewer.
Still, I’m willing to consider that this next paragraph helps explain Mr. Gottlieb’s mistake, but it will be evident how not questioning his assumption can help perpetuate it.
A small pocket of Jewish boys are now growing up with their foreskins intact – a trend many Jews find troubling. Parents who make the radical choice not to circumcise face such huge social and familial pressure, many refuse to talk about it or tell their friends.
“There’s that whole thing, are you loyal to the faith? Are you loyal to the tribe?” says a Toronto mother who, like many contacted for this story, asked to remain anonymous.
A Jewish friend of mine left her son intact. From the few stories she’s told me, it’s clear this sort of pressure is quite real. Is it possible, though, that there are more Jewish parents refusing to circumcise their sons than we know about, since we can’t count those who refuse to discuss it? I won’t make any claims on the prevalence, but it’s at least obvious that universal is untrue.
One final thought:
… Amani, is now 7. “I think he’s going to thank me when he’s older,” Ms. Moon says.
I’m sure he will, but if he doesn’t, he has the choice to have himself circumcised. Whether he chooses it for aesthetics, potential health benefits, or to practice his religion, the choice to remove a healthy part of his body will be his. That’s appropriate.