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How Do I Tell Him I Want Bris?

April 28, 2014

This article was reprinted with permission from The Forward

The Seesaw is a new kind of advice column in which a a broad range of columnists will address the real life issues faced by interfaith couples and families. Join the discussion by commenting on this post, sharing it on Facebook or following the Forward on Twitter. And keep the questions coming. You can email your quandaries, which will remain anonymous, to: seesaw@forward.com. This edition of The Seesaw features InterfaithFamily contributor Jane Larkin.

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I Am Pregnant With a Boy…

I am a pretty unobservant Jewish woman who didn’t hesitate to marry a non-Jewish man. We had a few token Jewish elements at our wedding, but otherwise our life together has been mostly faith-free. Now I am pregnant with a boy and feel very strongly about having him circumcised by a mohel in front of our family and friends. How do I bring this up with my husband who, I assume, is unaware of this practice of ours, without totally horrifying him? — Pregnant in Cleveland

He May Be Confused

Jane LarkinJANE LARKIN: If your husband is circumcised, he may be less horrified than you think, but he may be confused by the idea that his usually ambivalent-about-Judaism-wife, feels strongly about engagement in a religious ritual.

Because generally you are faith-free, I’d think about why this ritual is important to you and why you want to introduce more religion into your home now. Why not have your son circumcised in the hospital? Does having a bris mean you want to raise your child as a Jew? Have you had that conversation with your husband? I’d have answers to these questions before I discussed having a Jewish circumcision ceremony.

As your pregnancy progresses, your obstetrician will probably ask you if you want him or her to perform a circumcision in the hospital a day or so after birth. Mine did. Since you need to give your doctor an answer, this is a perfect way to bringing up the subject of a bris with your husband. You can say, “I want to talk to you about circumcising our son. My doctor asked if we want him or her to perform the circumcision in the hospital.” Then you can explain why you want to have a bris.

If your husband is not circumcised, the conversation will probably be more complicated since you’ll have to sell circumcision and Jewish ritual. The American Academy of Pediatrics won’t be of any help. It recommends that parents make a decision on circumcision in consultation with their pediatrician and consider medical, religious, cultural, and ethnic traditions. And because Jews perform circumcision because we believe it is a religious obligation and sacred act, rather than for health purposes, you’ll still need to be able to answer those questions about why having a bris is important to you.

Jane Larkin writes about parenting for InterfaithFamily.com, a website that supports interfaith families exploring Jewish life. She is the author of the forthcoming book, From Generation to Generation: A Story of Intermarriage and Jewish Continuity. She lives with her family in Dallas, TX.

Read the rest of the responses to this question here

Hebrew for "circumciser" (Yiddish term is "moyel"), the person who performs a ritual circumcision. The feminine form is "mohelet." Hebrew for "covenant," often referring to the ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old ("brit milah" - "covenant of circumcision"). It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit."
The Jewish Daily Forward

The Jewish Daily Forward is a legendary name in American journalism and a revered institution in American Jewish life. Launched as a Yiddish-language daily newspaper on April 22, 1897, the Forward entered the din of New York's immigrant press as a defender of trade unionism and moderate, democratic socialism.

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