Brit and Baptism

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October 26, 2009 at 3:07 pm #3939


Agonizing over this, but looking for direction and maybe even a little affirmation.  I am Roman Catholic and my wife is Jewish.  We already have a daughter who will be 5 soon and was not baptized but we did have a naming ceremony.  We are about to have our second child and we have found out it will be a boy, but now the time comes to decide, although both sides (her Jewish parents and my catholic mother) would like to see a decision made with their interests.  I am trying to find out if people have had both ceremonies performed, and what everyone’s reaction or well-thought opinions are of this.

October 26, 2009 at 10:50 pm #3941


There’s an organization called that you might want to check out that has some articles on people who have done similar things. This particular site encourages “Jewish choices” and I think a lot of people would encourage you to raise your child in one religion. I’d suggest that you talk with your wife and get on the same page about what you want to do and what you want your kids to learn about religion. If you’ve had a baby naming for your daughter but haven’t baptized her, it sounds like you’re currently leaning towards Judaism. Does your wife object to the idea of a baptism?

If you want the kids to also be raised Catholic or taught about Catholicism or only to be raised as Jews, it’s probably better to make a decision now when the kids are young and not put it off.

October 27, 2009 at 12:53 am #3943


You can have a circumcision done in a hospital – it is quite common these days.

October 27, 2009 at 1:04 am #3944

Debbie B.

For the bris, it depends on the rabbi, the synagogue, and the mohel, but there may be restrictions on doing a Jewishly valid bris if the baby has or will be baptized. Note that you can do a bris anywhere (my son’s was done in our apartment), not just in a synagogue, and a rabbi need not be present. You’ll have better luck finding someone who will do a bris for a child who will also be baptized with a Jewish ob/gyn or other doctor who is Reform or Jewish Renewal and who also does circumcisions. Otherwise, most other mohelim tend to be Orthodox, and they would probably not be comfortable with the idea of a child who would not be brought up solely Jewish. I would be upfront with any mohel about this issue to avoid having it come up right before the ceremony.

Note that if a circumcision is done (say in a hospital) without religious intent and the proper blessings, it is not really equivalent to a “brit milah’ or “bris” which is a welcoming of the baby boy into the covenant and is not merely a surgical procedure.

Andrea’s point is a good one. It probably is a good time to think hard about the future religious education of the children. I hope you will put the children’s welfare first, rather than simply trying to please grandparents. The grandparents may be disappointed if their grandchildren aren’t brought up in their religion, but it is not the same as the deep and long-term consequences that choices in religious upbringing may have on the children.

If you have not already committed to “doing both”, I would like to add that I personally feel that raising children in one faith, with an understanding about the other faith, is often best for the children. The decisions may be hard ones for the parents to make, but how much more difficult it is for children in the position of either making those decisions or being afraid to look like they are favoring one religion or another. Also, it is very difficult logistically and philosophically (and may be prevented institutionally) to fully educate a child in more than one religion, so often raising a child in “both” is either superficial or ends up essentially being “neither”.

October 27, 2009 at 10:38 am #3948


Because you say you are Catholic, you have the obligation to raise your children in the Catholic faith.  This is what the Church teaches.  Your wife is Jewish.   She does not have that obligation to raise the children Catholic, but you do.  That includes baptizing both of your children, attending Mass with them, seeing that they receive the sacraments, being a good example to them by taking seriously  the Catholic faith, etc.  Years ago in an interfaith marriage, both parties were required to agree that the children would be raised Catholic before they were married.  That is no longer the case.  Now only the Catholic parent has that obligation, but it is a serious obligation.  

As for circumcision, the Catholic Church teaches that circumcision is unnecessary now, and especially so for children being raised Catholic.  Circumcision is no longer recommended for medical reasons either.  You can learn a lot more about Catholic teaching about circumcision at

October 27, 2009 at 2:51 pm #3950


Well, if you didn’t baptize your daughter, why would you for your son, unless you are (implicitly) suggesting the birth of a son is more paramount.

If you want to satisfy both sides, I see nothing wrong with having the brit, something small with just family at your home if that would make all comfortable while still having one, and the same with the baptism.

Otherwise, it would appear you have chosen Jewish traditions so you should stick with that and you’ll have to just tell your mother that’s what has been decided.  These conversations really should be had before children come along, it saves stress on all sides. Good luck.

October 27, 2009 at 3:16 pm #3951

Debbie B.

PJ neglects the fact that key obligation of Jews is to bring up their children as Jews as mandated in the Torah. So the Jewish wife has just as strong an obligation to raise the children as Jews as the Catholic husband to raise the children as Catholics.

Since the mother of the son of the original post does not seem to be very religious, I did not bring up the religious aspects of Jewish commandment in my previous post, but now that the subject has been raised, here is more information on why this is actually a very important Jewish issue from a religious standpoint:

Raising children as Jews is such an important commandment that it occurs twice in the full three paragraph version of the Shema, the most important Jewish prayer. This prayer is said by observant Jews twice a day. In the first paragraph, Deutoronomy 6:4-9 it states: “And these words which I command you this day you shall take to heart. You shall diligently teach them to your children…”, and again in the second paragraph, Deutoronomy 11:13-21, “Teach them to your children”. These are the same two Torah portions written on the mezzuzah scroll that even relatively secular Jews place on the doorposts of their homes. And they are two of the four Torah portions on the scrolls inside the tefillin that observant Jewish men (and a few progressive women) traditionally put on for prayer every weekday morning. The other two Torah portions in tefillin are from Exodus and include commands to teach your children about God’s special relationship with Jews as shown by bringing them out of Egypt.

Raising children to be Jews is so important that it is usually in the Declaration of Faith that converts to Judaism are typically required to pledge and sign. Some Orthodox rabbis interpret this requirement so strictly that they require converts to promise to send their children to Orthodox Jewish day schools. Also in that Declaration is the promise to circumcise sons according to Jewish tradition.

In fact, to get back to circumcision, “brit milah” is considered so important a commandment that the penalty for not doing so is “kareit” which is basically the Jewish equivalent to ex-communication.

So each parent is technically religiously obligated to bring up their children in their own faith. But I feel that the parents need to make some concessions *for the good of the child*. It reminds me of the biblical story of the women fighting over a baby who came before King Solomon: parents who do not make the difficult decisions and compromises that may be needed in an interfaith family may be psychologically splitting the child in two.

October 27, 2009 at 5:32 pm #3953


The last essay here is probably the most relevant to your situation, but there are also some articles about groups that educate kids about both religions so they can make an informed choice as teenagers:

Based on some of the other posts I’ve read here, it sounds as though raising kids as both or exposing them only casually to the holidays will quite often result in a kid who is very secular and doesn’t believe in or practice either faith seriously. Maybe that’s what you and your wife are comfortable with as the end result, but you should probably be on the same page and make the decision together about what you’re going to do.

A 5-year-old is usually starting some sort of formal religious education, whether it’s CCD or Hebrew school, and is learning prayers and internalizing the faith and practices of her religion. It’s definitely not too late to baptize your daughter or to send her to CCD if that’s what you want to do, but by the time she’s 7 and all of the other girls are making their First Communions, she might feel out of step and uncomfortable in church if you try to send her then. She’d probably require a different sort of CCD  to catch her up.

October 27, 2009 at 11:51 pm #3957


I just want to clarify the previous poster’s comments that children of interfaith marriages who are raised in both or neither religion, usually identify as neither. That’s true, but they also tend to marry Christians (over 90% do according to the last study I read) and their children almost always end up merging back into our society’s predominant religion— Christianity.  So if you want to give Judaism any chance at all in becoming your children’s religion of choice, raise them as Jews.

Please do not do them the disservice of refusing to make a choice at all, or raising them as both, as that might be easiest for you and your wife, but it will be the most difficult and confusing situation to put your children in as they grow.

October 28, 2009 at 12:47 am #3959


Here are contact details for celebrants of Brit Shalom (Brit B’li Milah – covenant without cutting), including several rabbis.

Since neither of you is so tied to your birth-faith as to resist intermarriage (as both teach), it would be inconsistent now to teach your children a stricter form of either of your two religions than either of you follows. By all means let your children know what both religions teach. Don’t try to cement either in as the final truth.

October 28, 2009 at 12:39 pm #3963


It would be easier to incorporate celebrating the Jewish holidays for a child raised Catholic than it would be to celebrate Christian holidays for a child raised Jewish.  Catholicism accepts the Old Testament as the story of the Jewish people before the Savior, Jesus Christ, was born.  Jesus was Jewish and celebrated the Jewish holidays.  A child raised Catholic could celebrate not only the Christian holidays of Christmas (when Jesus was born) and Easter (when Jesus rose from the dead), but also the Jewish holidays of Jesus.

The Jewish people do not accept the New Testament, so it seems impossible for a child raised Jewish to celebrate the Christian holidays and to believe that Jesus is their Saviour.  Being raised Catholic could honor and celebrate both the Jewish and Christian holy days, but the reverse is not true.

As for Jewish ritual circumcision, which until the second century A.D. involved only removing the tip of the foreskin and not the entire foreskin as is done today, the Church is clear in the Catechism that a Catholic should respect the bodily integrity of others- #2297.  The New Testament also warns Christians to NOT circumcise.

October 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm #3964


As far as I know, the Church neither forbids nor requires circumcision, so that’s a decision left up to the parents for secular reasons. Most American boys are circumcised for non-religious reasons without Catholic or Protestant clergy weighing in, so current interpretation of Scripture appears not to forbid it.

If the original poster hasn’t already talked to the rabbis and priests in town about possible options and whether one or both of them would be willing to perform the ceremonies the couple has in mind for his daughter and soon to be son, it would probably be a good idea for them to do so. I would imagine their options would depend a lot on how liberal the respective clergy are. There are people in both religions who have done and probably will do what the poster has in mind, but it would require some searching and maybe they’d have to bring in someone from out of town. But it would be better for all concerned if the parents of these kids agree on what the different ceremonies mean and what type of religious education the kids will receive in the future and what they want them to believe.

October 28, 2009 at 3:32 pm #3965


Andrea is probably not aware of this, but Catholic teaching is quite clear about circumcision.  See:

“The Council of Florence (1438-1435) ordered “all who glory in the name of Christian not to practice circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation.”  (Pope Eugene IV in a Papal Bull- 1442.)

“Today, while nontherapeutic male circumcision remains common in some places, as a general practice it is forbidden in Catholic teaching for more basic reasons of respect for bodily integrity.The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against moral law” (N. 2297).”

“Elective circumcision clearly violates that standard. It is an amputation and mutilation, and, to my knowledge, and as you note, no significant medical group in the world defends it as having any therapeutic value. In 1999 the Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association stated that neonatal circumcision is nontherapeutic because no disease is present and no therapeutic treatment is required.” (Source:  The Morality of Circumcision from “The Question Box,” October, 2004, by Father John J. Dietzen, M.A., S.T.L.)

In Acts 15:10, St. Peter, the first pope, told the Jewish Christians who were advocating circumcision of the Gentiles, “And now are you going to correct God by burdening the Gentiles with a yoke that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear?”  This is strong language, especially considering that ritual circumcision at that time (from Abraham until the 2nd century A.D.)  removed only the tip of the foreskin that extended beyond the glans.  The Pharisees changed ritual circumcision in the 2nd century A.D.  to removal of the entire foreskin.  That was not the practice of Abrhaham.  See:
http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision. … l#article1

October 28, 2009 at 5:18 pm #3966


P.J — not as interpreted by most Catholics today.

Wikipedia article:

These answers on a fairly conservative Catholic forum give the standard position of the Church on circumcision, which is as I cited in the answer above:

October 28, 2009 at 5:49 pm #3967


The forums listed by Andrea are the personal opinions of individual American apologists who live in a culture where circumcision was promoted in the late 1800’s (originally to prevent masturbation), but which has declined in recent years.  They make no mention of the Catholic Catechism teaching on “Respect for bodily integrity” (which was approved by the Vatican), the New Testament Scriptures regarding circumcision, the Papal Bull of Eugene IV, or even the words of Pope Pius Pius XII in Discorsi e Messaggi Radiodiffusi, t. XIV, Rome 1952, s. 328-329 :  “From a moral point of view, circumcision is permissible if, in accordance with therapeutic principles, it prevents a disease that cannot be
countered in any other way.”  Since today there are not diseases that cannot be prevented in ways other than circumcision, circumcision is thus impermissible.
A Pope speaks with more authority in the Church than does an apologist from a conservative Catholic forum. 

Catholics in the rest of the world do not routinely circumcise their children.  It is only common in the U.S. for cultural reasons and because of a lack of understanding among Catholics about what the Church teaches.

Galatians 5:2-6: “Pay close attention to me, Paul, when I tell you that if you have yourselves circumcised, Christ will be of no use to you. I point out once more to all who receive circumcision that they are bound to the law in its entirety. Any of you who seek your justification in the law have severed yourselves from Christ and fallen from God’s favor! It is in the spirit that we eagerly await the justification we hope for, and only faith can yield it. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor the lack of it counts for anything; only faith, which expresses itself through love.”

Philippians 3:2-3: “Beware of unbelieving dogs. Watch out for workers of evil. Be on guard against those who mutilate. It is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus rather than putting our trust in the flesh.”

1 Corinthians 7:18-19: “Was someone called after he had been circumcised? He should not hide his circumcision. Did the call come to another who had never been circumcised? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision counts for nothing, and its lack makes no difference either. What matters is keeping God’s commandments.”

1 Corinthians 12: 18: “As it is, God has set each member of the body in the place he wanted it to be.”

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