A few months before his son was born, Thomas Wolfe of Wheeling, W.Va., consulted the rabbi of his Reform congregation to discuss plans for the baby’s circumcision. “I had the perception that a circumcision was just an innocuous procedure, with no risk,” he later told the Forward. After the rabbi had recommended that Wolfe find a ritual circumciser, or mohel, to perform the newborn’s bris, Wolfe did a little Internet research. “It wasn’t really until that time that I became aware of all the controversies,” he said.
The article is mostly good, although the concluding quote is an absurd abuse of logic I’ve addressed before. (I can’t find the link right now.) Still, it should become apparent that not all Jews are circumcising their sons.
It isn’t, judging by the comments left on the article. Or, I should say that many Jews believe that Jews who reject circumcision aren’t really Jewish anymore, either because they’re not following this particular commandment or because they’re not practicing Jews in other regards. It’s strange that this is the one that matters, and that it’s impossible to reject it, even though there are many actions prescribed by the Old Testament that are no longer followed because they’re not consistent with modern understandings of rights and facts. Instead, we’re stuck with something like this, from Bill in the comments:
Frankly, I am shocked that a man could hate his son and the children of others, so much as to deny him the medically established protection of circumcision!
Especially to make this denial at a time when the media is filled with mention of HIV/AIDS and the fact that circumcision is a proven transmission preventative – just as it has proved to be in the case of many other STD’s.
If you don’t cut your
children sons, you hate them. If you advocate against others cutting their children sons, you hate their children sons. Ignore the obvious truth that routine/ritual infant circumcision is surgery that is not medically indicated. You hate your sons unless you cut them because you’re denying them now (even though they can still choose later).
Or they can achieve the same results with less invasive methods. There might be options other than circumcise and don’t get HIV or don’t circumcise and get HIV. Just because I advocate against infant circumcision does not mean that I want people to get HIV. I’ve been accused of that more than once, and it’s the same shallow, unintelligent thinking.
Personally, I’d rather teach sons (and daughters) that safe sex is far more effective at preventing HIV and STDs than genital cutting. I’d also teach them a healthy dose of skepticism in believing the latest fantastical scientific breakthroughs reported by the media. Reporting doesn’t imply they’re false, but it doesn’t guarantee that they’re correct, either, or that they’re reported in the proper context. A 50% reduction may sound amazing, but when it’s a 50% reduction of a 1% risk, it’s not nearly as exciting. Shouldn’t we question why that 1% risk is always ignored?
There is some common sense in the comments¹. From S.K.:
Having been born in the Soviet Union, my parents did not give me a bris out of fear of the authorities. Upon arriving in America, I proudly had a bris in a hospital.
It was painful, but worth it. I’m sure that if given the choice, the majority of the uncircumcised children of these ultra-Reformists would also opt for a bris when they get older. The bris is our covenant. It’s a permanent reminder of who we are.
I get the impression that S.K. is advocating for infant circumcision. If so, he is wrong, no matter how much he values his bris. However, I’ve said what he said in the second paragraph. If we refrain from cutting Jewish infants, a majority of them would likely have themselves circumcised. It would have meaning and value to many Jewish men. I don’t reject that or seek to prevent that. Adults should remain free to do to their own bodies whatever pleases them, for whatever reason.
If circumcision has religious meaning to an adult male, he should do it. If it has cosmetic value to him, he should do it. If it’s merely a time-saver during his daily shower, and he thinks that is worth more than his foreskin, I don’t care what he does. I am only against forced genital cutting without medical indication². In America that means infant circumcision, for whatever social or religious reason.
¹ There is also a great deal of irrational thinking. Shriber stated:
Infants are totally dependent on their parents. I didn’t know who I was till I was given a name and more importantly a language in which to express myself. I didn’t choose either my name or my language. My parents imposed English on me. I might have been more comfortable with Chinese or Swahili. Are dare my parents force me to speak English? They took away my autonomy. Tough they will say. If you didn’t like English you should have been born to a Chinese or Swahili speaking couple.
Just like a male can’t replace his now-removed foreskin, he can’t learn Chinese or Swahili. Such pro-circumcision advocates simply aren’t interested in recognizing that children might have rights that include being free from unnecessary surgery.
² Potential benefits, or “medically established protection” to use Bill’s more convincing but less factually accurate term, are not a medical indication. Potential benefits are also not a social justification. If no less invasive intervention is available to treat a medical problem, circumcision passes proxy consent in the American context of children. Otherwise, we must value human rights more.