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Circumcision, Pros and Cons

Return to the Guide to Birth Ceremonies for Interfaith Families.

 

While most American Jewish boys are circumcised, there is some debate over the safety, necessity and importance of circumcision.

Those who advocate for Jewish boys to have a bris point to the long pull of tradition, the religious requirement, the fact that the ceremony officially welcomes the child into the Jewish community and the fact that most American boys are circumcised. Modern mohels use special clamps to prevent bleeding and typically use an anesthetic to reduce the pain in the child. In addition, studies have shown that circumcision may reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and AIDS. For many Jews, a brit milah is an essential way to welcome and mark a boy as a member of the Jewish community.

Circumcision opponents point to studies that show circumcision can lead to complications such as infection, hemorrhage and even death. They also feel that circumcision causes unnecessary pain in infants and that the foreskin also serves a useful role in protecting the head of the penis in the infant and in sexual function in adulthood.

The brit milah is a widely endorsed practice in all American Jewish communities. At the same time, circumcision is not nearly as common in other developed countries, especially in Europe, and in some countries, such as Sweden, less than half of Jewish males are circumcised.

For more on the circumcision debate, see these articles on InterfaithFamily.com:

 

Aaron, Rabbi Donni C. How I Counsel Interfaith Families Considering a Ritual Circumcision.

Friedman, Dawn. Why I Am Not Having My Son Circumcised.

Levenson, Rabbi Paul H. Handling Hesitations over Circumcision: One Couple's Story.

Moss, Lisa Braver. Circumcision: My Position.

Weiss, Rabbi Kenneth S. A Connection with Our People.

The Guide to Birth Ceremonies for Interfaith Families is also available in PDF or Word formats.

Hebrew for "covenant of circumcision," a ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old. It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit." Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. 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."
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