Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Jewish American Genital Wellness Movement

The following compilation was graciously shared with me:

“When you take the religion out of circumcision, and really look at what the procedure actually involves, it is easy to see why more and more people are choosing to leave their sons intact. I thank my lucky stars for the Internet and the information it provided me on circumcision (as well as a million other mommy related questions). The Internet has allowed me to question the status quo; to find out why things are the way they are. A privilege our foremothers did not have. For me, the mere thought of giving birth to my precious baby at home without any medical intervention and then cutting off a part of his body eight days later just seemed absurd. I told myself that if G-d created my son with a foreskin, then he was going to keep it.”
 - Stacey Greenberg, My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin, Mothering Magazine 

"Just like so many parts of the scriptures are homophobic, misogynistic, racist, classist. We're letting all those go away, all those really frightening passages about stoning adulteresses to death and so forth. Most people, Jews and Muslims, I suppose, don't take those seriously anymore and it's easy. There's no question. They don't struggle with it. It's just ink on a page. It just becomes a story, an allegory of the past, and they might not even think about whether that did ever happen, but it’s passed from history into mythology. So, I'm hoping and affirming that circumcision will also pass into mythology."
 - Tina Kimmel, PhD, MSW, MPH, Director of 
NOCIRC, East Bay Area
Maternal Child Health Epidemiologist, co-founder of Jews for the Rights of the Child

"We do not engage in circumcision, so that we celebrate all babies being born, girls and boys and the ceremonies are the same for welcoming both girls and boys into a poetic kind of covenantal ideal of love and support. We're all born into the world vulnerable and in need of people who love us and take care of us…  we depend upon each other for love and protection and that extends in this case I would say also to creating a covenant without circumcision….  There’s no official place in our movement’s philosophy for circumcision… the welcoming ceremony has no place for it… it’s really unimportant actually… most Jewish people who have any of covenant actually focus primarily on how we treat each other…   we’re all in this together folks… we all have to live some kind of ideas… not sacrifices of children’s bits - I think that’s completely absurd at this time in history. I will say that I would not circumcise a child. … I think many Rabbis actually if they were going to be honest would say that circumcision is an unimportant part of Jewish life.”
- Rabbi Binyamin Biber, 
Washington DC Q&A with Ryan McAllister & Rabbi Binyamin Biber

“I knew we weren’t the first Jewish parents to keep our child intact; what did everyone else do? The internet provided a few
examples of Bris shalom ceremonies… Since our Bris shalom, I’ve run across others in the same predicament; I’ve had conversations about whether or not we made the right choice (we did), if my son is “actually Jewish” (he is), and if we would make the same choice again (we would). The only thing I would change is my own hesitation. If there’s anything the past year and a half of parenting has taught me, it’s to trust the instincts that keep my child safe and happy.… And when our son inevitably holds us accountable, as kids seem wont to do, I look forward to saying, “We thought you were already perfect,” rather than “It seemed like the thing to do.”
- Pamela, Intact and Jewish, Natural Parents Network, July 14th, 2011

“Jewish parents are known for our devotion to our kids, so questioning circumcision comes naturally. Jewish practice has evolved over the millennia to keep up with modern ethics and scientific understanding. We now know that infants feel pain and that traumatic experiences in infancy can have lasting consequences. We also have an understanding of the function and purpose of the foreskin. Given these and other factors, I feel that the time has come for the covenant to evolve into a symbolic welcoming ceremony.”
- Rebecca Wald, editor of 

“We must envision a Judaism that can welcome all of our children, nonviolently, into the brit b'lee milah, a covenant without circumcision. We need to support and affirm men's struggle to revise the old notion of masculinity which is rooted in fear of women. We invite men to explore ways to ritualize and celebrate masculinity and the critical passages of male bonding in ways that are life-affirming, nonviolent and protective of the sacred wholeness of men. Only in these ways will we begin the restoration of the holy and establish tikkun, healing, between the sexes.
Ultimately, we all must know that it is not possible to violate or suppress the sexuality of one gender without doing harm to the other. Opposing circumcision is men's work; but it is also most profoundly, women's work. Our babies know and we know: it begins with us.”
 - Miriam Pollack, 
Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective
 Jewish Women Speak Out, p. 171-185, Canopy Press, 1995.

“It's been a (long) half month since George's birthday, birthday party and naming ceremony. The week was a little harried, a little different than I'd imagined, but in the end everything worked out beautifully. The fog lifted in San Francisco just in time for George's aunties to make it and in the absence of challah or a mohel, my baby got his Hebrew name just the same.
When I was researching the bris shalom, I found very few resources online for parents who, like us, were trying to welcome and name their son… We 
found some scripts and sat down together to craft a ceremony with only the meaningful-to-us and none of the extras or concessions. The result was a short, sweet and informal gathering with babies running around, friends and family sharing well wishes, bread and honey and -- most importantly -- an intact baby boy with a brand-spankin'-new Hebrew name. Here is the script. I realize this won't be a riveting post for most people, but my hope is that someone might stumble across it while researching for their own son's bris shalom, and find a useful bit or support for the somewhat thankless task of naming an intact Jewish boy…”
- Stefanie, 
The NamingVery, Very Fine, December 29, 2010 

“What is most satisfying to me is knowing that I have helped a number of parents, particularly Jewish parents, come to the conclusion that they can be good Jews and leave their baby intact.… This is one of the most important decisions you will ever make on behalf of your baby. If you choose to circumcise, it can never be undone. If you choose not to, he can make the choice later in life. To Jewish parents, I would remind them that their child is Jewish if the mother is Jewish, according to Jewish law.”
 - Miriam Pollack, 
Defying Convention: An Interview With Miriam Pollack.

“Good afternoon. My name is Brian Levitt… I am Jewish, the eldest of 3 children and the son of a doctor… I feel deeply harmed by circumcision, and this view has only been confirmed over time. I do not feel closer to Judaism because of my circumcision. On the contrary, I deeply wish one thing had nothing to do with the other. The genital cutting of infants has driven me away from my religion, and I'm far from alone in this view. Eventually my father understood these issues, and even apologized for having allowed my brother and I to be circumcised at birth… There are hundreds of thousands of men who resent their infant circumcision. There are tens of thousands of intact Jewish boys and men around the world who thank their lucky stars they were not circumcised.”
- Brian Levitt, Jewish Intactivist, co-founder of 
Jews for the Rights of the Child

Testimony at the California Senate Judiciary Committee Public Hearing on Circumcision.
“I wish I hadn’t been circumcised. I could show you studies that I believe demonstrate the deleterious effects of the procedure on infantsthe costs to the adults that had the procedure done earlier in life, and the falsity of the supposed health benefits of circumcision, but I won’t. There are dedicated organizations that can convey that information far better than I could. What I have to offer you is my personal experience... I grew up going to shul [synagogue], celebrating the holidays, going to Sunday School, having a Bar Mitzvah [the Jewish coming-of-age, at 13 for boys], and even going to a Jewish Day School, yet today I am in almost complete control over the extent to which Jewish culture and Jewish religion play a role in my daily life. The exception is circumcision…”
 - Shea Levy, 
To the Mohel Who Cut MeBeyondTheBris, June 4, 2011

“In December I launched Beyond the Bris, a web-based project that is putting real faces and voices to the Jewish movement against infant circumcision. It is an open and dynamic forum where likeminded Jewish people can come together. We share our ideas with one another and visitors to the project in whatever ways feel right to us. This includes original music, poetry and art. I couldn’t be happier with the terrific response I’ve been getting from Jews in AmericaIsrael and elsewhere who agree that children are entitled to keep their whole sex organs… I think the positive Jewish response to the Beyond the Bris project and to the efforts in California speaks tremendously of the Jewish people; that we are willing to seriously consider this issue even when it means challenging thousands of years of tradition.”
 - Rebecca Wald, J.D., 
Questioning circumcision, The Jewish Reporter, July 23, 2011 

"As someone who was raised in the ways of traditional Orthodox Jewish life, I recognize that circumcision cannot be compatible with Judaism, or any belief system, that treasures the sanctity of human life.”
Jonathan Friedman

“Sorry to disappoint, but that's the end of our story. Or at least the end of the story of Zachary's bris. There was no circumcision on that day. We had decided not to circumcise our son. Although he enters a world filled with violence, he would enter it without violence done to him. Although he will no doubt suffer many cuts and scrapes during his life, he would not bleed by our hand… We welcomed Zachary into our family on that morning without a circumcision. We decided that we want him to live in a world without violence, so we welcomed him without violence. We decided that we want him to live in world in which he is free to experience the fullness of the pleasures of his body, so we welcomed him with all his fleshy nerves intact. And we decided that we want him to live in a world in which male entitlement is a waning memory, and in which women and men are seen--in both ritual and in reality--as full equals and partners. So we welcomed him equally, his mother and I, in the time-honored way that desert cultures have always welcomed strangers to their tents: We washed his feet.”
 - Michael S. Kimmel 
The Kindest Un-Cut. Tikkun 16(3): 43. 

Some American Rabbis Explain their Opposition to Circumcision.
Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon with Rabbi Binyamin Biber | Quicktime audio format.Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon with Rabbi Steven Blane | Quicktime audio format.Rabbi Nathan Segal Calls for an End to Circumcision | A Progressive Rabbi urges us to move to peaceful covenants.Rabbi Jeffrey Falick: Eliminating The Cruelest Cut | A humanistic Rabbi on Intactivism.Rabbi Jeffrey Falick: A Resource Guide To The "Intactivist" (No Circumcision) Movement |

Voices of Jews Who Oppose Circumcision.

Jewish Families, the Foreskin, and Human Rights Part 1. | Jewish Families, the Foreskin, and Human Rights Part 2. | Jewish Families, the Foreskin, and Human Rights Part 3. | 

Jewish Intactivist Media. | A blog for Jewish parents opposed to circumcision for moral reasons.Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision | A Film by Orthodox Intactivist, Eliyahu Ungar-SargonThe Measure of His Grief by Lisa Braver MossQUESTIONING CIRCUMCISION: A Jewish Perspective by Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.  Rabbis who lead covenant without cutting ceremonies | Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon's Intactivist Podcast | A Jewish Intactivist explores the issue.

Jewish Intactivist Groups.

Jews Against Circumcision | Jews For the Rights of the Child | Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective | Gonnen | Kahal |Af-Mila: An Israeli Jewish Intactivist Journal | The Israeli Association Against Genital Mutilation |

Jewish Peaceful Covenant Texts for New Parents.

Worldwide list of Rabbis who lead covenant without cutting ceremonies | Brit B'lee Milah (Covenant Without Cutting) Ceremony | A Brit Shalom Ceremony | Norm Cohen: A Brit B’lee Milah Ceremony | Song for an Intact Jewish Boy’s Welcoming Ceremony |

Read Jewish Parents' Experiences Keeping their Sons Intact.

Dear Elijah: A Conservative Jewish Father's Letter to His Intact Son | Published on Peaceful Parenting.Moshe Rothenberg: Ending Circumcision in the Jewish Community? | Envisioning an Intactivist Judaism.The Naming | Published on Very, Very Fine.Michael Kimmel: The Kindest Un-Cut: Feminism, Judaism, and My Son's Foreskin | Published in Tikkun. 
Sarah Rockwell: Lucking Into Bris Shalom | Published on Beyond the Bris.Stacey Greenberg: My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin | Published in Mothering Magazine.Laura Shanley: A Jewish Woman Denounces Circumcision | A Childbirth educator chooses intact.Intact & Jewish | Published on the Natural Parents Network.Diane Targovnik: How "Cut" Saved My Son's Foreskin : A Movie Review | Published on Beyond the Bris.

Progressive Jews Acknowledge the Ethical Problems of Circumcision.
Circumcision: Identity, Gender, and Power by Miriam Pollack | Originally published in Tikkun.
Eli Ungar-Sargon: Outlawing Circumcision: Good for the Jews? | Published in the Jewish Daily Forward.Circumcision Questions (letter from an intact Jew). |  Published in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin.Hebrew Scholar Vadim Cherny: How Judaic is circumcision? | It’s not at all, he finds.Eli Ungar-Sargon & Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on the Moral Problems of Circumcision | At the Manhattan Jewish Experience.Jenny Goodman, MD: An Alternative Perspective | A Jewish doctor in the UK chooses intact.A Progressive Case for Bris without Milah. | Lisa Braver Moss: Evolving Jewish Practices | Published on Beyond the Bris.Lisa Braver Moss: The Jewish Roots of Anti-Circumcision Arguments | Miriam Pollack: Circumcision : A Jewish Feminist Perspective | Published in Jewish Women Speak Out.Brit Milah: Inconsistent with Jewish Ethics? | Written by a Jewish parent.The Measure of His Grief by Lisa Braver Moss | A novel exploring Jewish intactivism.Miriam Pollack, Intactivist of the Month | Moshe Rothenberg: Being Rational About Circumcision and Jewish Observance | Defying Convention: An Interview With Miriam Pollack | Published on Beyond the Bris.Profile of Jewish Intactivist Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon |

Leaders in the Jewish Movement Against Circumcision.

Jewish Rationales for Abolishing Circumcision from Jews Against Circumcision.Jewish mom Miriam Pollack: Circumcision spiritually wounds | Published in the East Valley Tribune.Midwife Mamma: Today’s Jews Reject Circumcision and Choose Peaceful Welcoming Covenants | An Intactivist Midwife.Jewish Scholar and Intactivist, Leonard Glick, MD, PhD. | A Jewish history of circumcision.Shea Levy: To the Mohel Who Cut Me | Published on Beyond the Bris.Progressive, Moral Jews speak out in Favor of Banning Circumcision on Minors. | Intactivism and Human Rights.The History of Circumcision: Leonard Glick , MD, PhD. | A Jewish Intactivist historian.Jonathan Friedman: On Circumcision Authority, and the Perpetuation of Abuse | Published on Beyond the Bris.Intactivist Perspectives From Jewish Women | Published on Dr. Ron Goldman’s site.American Jews Speak Out in Favor of Banning Circumcision on Minors
The Intactivist Movement in Judaism. | Published on Saving Sons.Howard Stern: Jewish Intactivist | Published on Beyond the Bris.

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