Friday, March 28, 2014

My Babies are Dead but Keep on Joking

I received a big package today. It's the kind you sweat a little about, knowing the knuckle behind the mommy blogging community online. I'm publishing it. It's going up, and staying up. So block me if you have to for your own comfort. But, please do consider reading her piece with an open mind. Trigger warning, too!

"Hey. I saw your comment about April Fool's jokes on the circumcision status before you deleted it. I've saved up these words but have nowhere to put them. I'm not brave enough to start my own blog and my heart is too heavy to play in the little fires all over Facebook. Maybe you can put this to good use. I only ask that you use a false name if you post this."

My Babies are Dead but Keep on Joking 

By Marianne Wright

About a week ago, I started to see something creep into my newsfeed. At first, it looked innocent enough. I saw a beautiful graphic one day. One of those sunshine and rainbow graphics with fancy font that I'll never be able to master even after taking a slew of photoshop classes.

I put on my glasses and peered at the flowery, colorful words. This April Fool's day, remember the mothers who are grieving. Don't make pregnancy jokes!

I felt stunned for a moment, but shrugged my shoulders and continued on.

The graphics didn't stop. More showed up. Then blog posts. Statuses. Even campaigns to change profile pics all in solidarity of this message.

I have something to say to the apparent thousands of people who like this message and have shared it in some way.

You do not speak for me. 

You know nothing. You know nothing of how I feel. You have no clue. You have no idea at all. I lost my babies. It was hell within hell within hell and it is still hell and you will never know what that means. 

Look at you, posting your cute, fancy pictures on Facebook, telling other people what they can and cannot do in their own lives and how they should and should not feel.

Who died and made you queen of the miscarriage kingdom? What ever gave you the idea that you could collectively speak for every parent who has lost a child? What ever made you think that you could decide how we feel and how we react to others in our lives?

From what I have seen, most of you haven't even experienced a pregnancy or infant loss. And even if you have, you would still be wrong for trying to project your feelings and your opinion onto my grief.

My babies are dead. A friend announcing a fake pregnancy on her Facebook has nothing to do with it.

I held my babies and they were cold and their eyes were empty. A family member posting a positive stick photo on April Fool's can't touch the images I see of their faces when I close my eyes. God, how beautiful they were.

Do something that might actually be of assistance to grieving parents. Instead of exploiting the vast, deep hell of grieving parents, why don't you share something helpful. Sure, you won't get as many likes if you post resources for PTSD and depression. Those are uncomfortable topics that make people look the other way. You won't get big internet high fives if you remind others to take a break from social networking when they feel overwhelmed. No one will see you and applaud you if you quietly bring a meal to a grieving neighbor or hug a friend and whisper her child's name.

Stop beating around the bush here. You have a campaign and it looks good and smells nicer. It's all about looking good. You are riding on the backs of hurting parents. And worse, you make it sound as if it's for them! Judging by the comments I've seen, lots of moms are eating it up, too! They seem to really think that their grief can be defined, managed and mitigated by what other people say on April Fool's Day.

I get that. I get wanting to believe that someone else can take away the pain. I understand the yearning to feel normal again. When that half jump occurs, that millisecond where you forget what was and no longer is, then you come crashing back down into your hell again, your skin tightening and burning as your stomach falls and your ears buzz and you start swallowing desperately so you don't vomit: you'd give anything for someone to take it all away.

That's an April Fool's joke in itself. No one can take it away. And no one can make it feel worse. You can't feel worse than the worst feeling of all. When you kiss your baby's cold, white skin and put your baby into a box, no one on this whole planet can do anything to make you feel worse. Their stupid prank status is nothing. It's not even a raindrop in the ocean.

This April Fool's day, I hope to see a change. I hope to see opposition to this objectifying, judgmental popularity campaign dressed up in politically correct whimsy. I don't expect you to understand. I hope you never have to know. No one deserves this eternity. The least you can do is stop capitalizing on it.

My babies are dead. Forever. Please laugh. Please joke. Post fake pregnancy photos. Tease your significant others and husbands. Catch it on video. Please complain about traffic. And that your coffee is too hot and your mother in law too mean. Please argue over grammar. Most of all, post photos of smiles. Post videos of laughter. Share jokes and love.

Pull me out of this narcissism of slowly dying but never truly laying to rest. Remind me there's more to life than the slow, sharp tearing of my heart every moment of every day. You can't make me feel any worse, but maybe, just maybe, you can begin to fill in the endless black hell that is my heart.

Keep on joking. Someone has to laugh.

JEWISH & INTACT: Jewish Canadian Family Bypasses Circumcision for a Brit Shalom

JEWISH & INTACT: Jewish Canadian Family Bypasses Circumcision for a Brit Shalom

Shawn Stark tells the story of his son's Brit Shalom ceremony, a baby welcoming ceremony without circumcision.
Rabbi David Mivasair blesses a Jewish boy as part of his Brit Shalom, on his 8th day after his birth. Instead of a circumcision, his family choose a Brit Shalom, a symbolic Jewish covenant naming and welcoming.

Rabbi David Mivasair blesses a Jewish boy as part of his Brit Shalom, on his 8th day after his birth. Instead of a circumcision, his family choose a Brit Shalom, a symbolic Jewish covenant naming and welcoming. 

"I've done two Bris Shalom ceremonies so far. Both the families deeply appreciated it. The young parents were most grateful. The older grandparents were skeptical at first but then also truly grateful. For the second one, we anointed the child with olive oil, with different family members anointing and blessing different parts of his body and his being. It was quite beautiful."
Rabbi David Mivasair, Vancouver, Canada.
This article is an excerpt from Following Our Hearts: A Father's Brit Shalom Journey, originally published Reprinted with permission.

Following Our Hearts: A Father's Brit Shalom Journey


Just as I was feeling defeated, I found a website that lists over 100 rabbis and celebrants who perform brit shalom, an alternative to brit milah. (Brit shalom contains the symbolic elements of the covenant ceremony, but without circumcision.) At the time, there was only one rabbi listed for all of British Columbia… but he just so happened to be in my city, Vancouver! I later discovered his name had been added about three weeks before I’d found it. I believe this was the universe rewarding us for following our hearts.

I connected with Rabbi David Mivasair in such a deep, meaningful way. I grew up going to Jewish school, attending synagogue--and yet I had never met a rabbi whose words inspired me the way his did. If I wasn't convinced before that we had made the right decision, I was now.

After meeting with the rabbi three or four times, it came time for the ceremony. On the eighth day of my son Kai's life, we had a ceremony across the street from our house, right by the Pacific ocean. We had our good friend playing guitar while we all sang in Hebrew. Rabbi Mivasair explained to everyone the meaning behind what we were doing in an eloquent and meaningful way.

Instead of circumcising our son, Amari and I decided that each member of our immediate family would bless a part of Kai with olive oil. I blessed his bicep and explained it was so he would have the strength to stay true to his beliefs, to who he was. My wife blessed his heart, wishing him to be full of love for everything and everyone. Each member of our family had an opportunity.

The service concluded with the whole group gathering behind us. Kai was in the front, Amari and I behind him touching his shoulders, and everyone behind us touching the person’s shoulders in front of them. We said a blessing, with the group energy passing and growing from hands to shoulders all the way to Kai.
Kai is now five months old and Amari and I couldn't be happier with our decision. We encourage everyone to do their research and follow their hearts. You can never go wrong doing that.

Shawn Stark grew up in a Jewish community in a suburb of Montreal, Canada, where he attended Jewish elementary school. He later moved to Vancouver. He met his wife, Amari, at a wedding in Montreal and she moved from London to Vancouver seven months later. They currently live in Vancouver, living on the beach and loving life.  

This article is an excerpt from Following Our Hearts: A Father's Brit Shalom Journey, originally published on Reprinted with permission.

Jewish Intactivism - A Male Human Rights Movement! 

Peaceful Covenant Texts for Jewish Parents. 
Worldwide list of over 50 Rabbis who lead covenant without cutting ceremonies
Song for an Intact Jewish Boy’s Welcoming Ceremony
Brit B'lee Milah Ceremony
A Brit Shalom Ceremony
Norm Cohen: A Brit B’lee Milah Ceremony

Jewish Parents' Experiences Keeping their Sons Intact.
Dear Elijah: A Conservative Jewish Father's Letter to His Intact Son | Published on Peaceful Parenting.
Rabbi Steven Blane: Bris Shalom Symbolic Ceremony
Moshe Rothenberg: Ending Circumcision in the Jewish Community? | Envisioning an Intactivist Judaism..
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.
Laura Shanley: A Jewish Woman Denounces Circumcision | A Jewish Childbirth Educator keeps her sons intact.
Stacey Greenberg: My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin | Published in Mothering Magazine.
Intact & Jewish | Published on the Natural Parents Network.
The Naming | Published on Very, Very Fine
Diane Targovnik: How "Cut" Saved My Son's Foreskin : A Movie Review | Published on Beyond the Bris.
Circumcision Questions (letter from an intact Jew). |  Published in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin.
Brit Milah: Inconsistent with Jewish Ethics? | Written by a Jewish parent.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stop Making Birth and Breasts Dirty

Nothing impresses upon me the importance of communicating body values to our children more than listening to women discuss birth and breastfeeding. What has a person internalized or experienced to come away with disgust and trepidation for basic human functions? Why are we not more concerned about this?

If a woman saw a mouth moving, chewing, swallowing food and she freaked out, saying it was disgusting and scary, we'd wonder about her trauma or suggest help. If she went on to say that she won't let her daughters see such a nasty thing, that she is protecting them from inappropriate and gross imagery, we'd be flabbergasted.

Yet, this is exactly what people do about birth and breastfeeding and we laugh along or even encourage it. The silly, overpriced breastfeeding doll comes to our country and parents are up in arms about it. Let's not even go into the war over those adorable plush "birth dolls" that give birth to a tiny baby and placenta. By the way women freak out online, I imagine they must be burning them in the streets.

These handcrafted dolls are amazing. Maybe if people could get past their issues,they'd consider them for their children.

Children are new to the world. They have no idea that the vagina is evil. They don't know that full breasts are gross. They don't look at a baby being born and think it's nasty or distasteful. Those are discriminatory judgments that they are taught to internalize.

Young people pick up on clues fast. If you make disparaging remarks, they learn from you. If you present birth as scary, dirty and gross, they learn to be terrified and grossed out about it. They are watching and waiting for you to take the lead. And if you don't, instead ignoring the issue until later, someone else will take the lead. Watch any popular TV show if you don't believe me. Birth is bloody, dangerous and traumatic in the media and breastfeeding is barely acknowledged. Or when it is mentioned, it's typically a headline about a woman being harassed or arrested.

I've watched my children as they meet their siblings at birth. They aren't grossed out. They aren't scared. They aren't being traumatized. It's one of the greatest moments in their lives. Their eyes light up. They look right past any blood or fluids to the tiny fingers and beautiful eyes. Their first instinct is to get closer, to touch the baby, to hug me, their dad, the baby.

Saying hi to #4

Stop teaching children discrimination. End the cycle of birth and breast disgust. YES. I'm saying to EXPOSE your children. Watch birth videos together. Discuss body parts and functions with anatomically correct terms and respectful definitions. Watch breastfeeding videos. Be respectful and supportive to a breastfeeding mother in front of your children. Answer their questions honestly and kindly.

YOU are telling them how to feel about it. Now is your opportunity to stop encouraging a cycle of terror and disgust involving one of most amazing experiences in life. Heal your inner hurts and give it a good try because this one matters. For you, for your children, for their future.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sociological Observations about the Swimsuit Season

This is a short pictorial to go with my article in The Natural Mother Magazine. This is not a thorough review, but just a brief introduction to the underpinnings of media images that our children might be quietly internalizing.

My daughter is 5 and starting to move into the next stages of human development. She has also outgrown the toddler department in most stores. We visited Target the other day and I was disappointed in the offerings for children her age.


The girl and boy photos in the children's department at Target

Some quick notes on these photos:

The girl has her knees slightly bent and foot turned inwards, a sign of being subdued, meek, hesitant. Typically, when advertising is directed towards men, the female has her chest forward. When advertising towards other women or in this case, young girls, a non-threatening stance such as slumped shoulders, folded arms or inward feet is taken instead.

This speaks to the underlying message in our culture that girls are not supposed to be strong, staunch, forward moving, leaders. She is looking away, again more passivity. Her arms are behind her, wrapped around a surfboard. Her purpose is to stand there and her worth is in being admired by others.

Meanwhile, we see a doer in the male. It's common in gendered media directed at children to show the boys in active play and the girls in passive play. He is strong. His shoulders are set back, his legs apart and feet forward. He has a bandaid, a sign of his ambition and activity. Even his shirt speaks of his power. Interestingly, as a reader pointed out, he holds a lifeguard device as if to rescue the girl with the surfboard.

I quickly scanned the racks. The boy rack showed long shorts down to the knees and matching rashguards with short or full sleeves. I turned to the girl rack. It was filled with a variety of 1 pieces and 2 pieces, but all of them had lace, frills and straps. If any of the bikinis had bottoms with more coverage, it was only a "butt hugger" short style. The primary rack had no sun coverage options.

Girl and boy rack comparisons

I walked into the actual girl department and saw a smaller, secondary rack of additional swimsuits. On the back of it, down at the bottom, was the one sun coverage option available in her size. It had a black and pink shirt which was cute. But, it still came with underwear bottoms and a strappy bikini top!

One coverage option, on the back of a smaller display (almost sold out, too!)

Whether intended by Target or not, when viewed by children receiving messages from social media and the culture all around them, the message was clear. Girls sacrifice their health in the sun to be looked at by others. Their purpose is to be admired by others, to show off their body for others. Careful discussion with my 5 year old confirmed that she received the message loud and clear. We will definitely be dialoguing more on this so that she is more aware of the subtle messages being sent to her.

Talk to your daughter before the industry does:


Ripples from a Teardrop

"Mama! Mama! Look at me!" My daughter is twirling in the dress up aisle, showing off a cape and crown.

"Mhm. That's nice." I glance briefly at a scene I've watched a hundred times. The baby is starting to wake up in the ergo, squirming and rooting for milk. Grr. I forgot to wear two shirts so I get to decide whether I want to show off my breast or my back in the store. I look down as I hear a clatter.

The toddler has pulled down a box of My Little Pony characters and is sliding them across the floor of the store. A lady squeezes past us, gives me the eye. A lot comes across when people give me the eye. Mainly the message that their lives have been irrevocably harmed in some way due to having to navigate past my loud family with too many children. And the SHOES. Where are my 3 year old's shoes? I make an audible sighing sound. It's another long grocery trip. I long to be alone.

That's when I notice another lady hovering outside my direct vision. She's peering at us, hesitantly. I cringe, thinking some comment about breastfeeding or large families is about to fly my way. But, something isn't quite right. I peek back at her, notice tears running down her face. Hmm.

At this point, my daughter has floated to the doll aisle so I make monumental efforts to move the semi-truck, I mean, multiple-person-cart over to that aisle. She has picked up her favorite dolls and is naming them, talking about them. She wants to bring them home and add them to her overpopulated baby doll corner. That's when I hear a quiet sob. I turn around to see the same lady standing there.

"I'm sorry."

Before I could ask her what's wrong, her words fall out, a flood crashing over me.

"My little girl had curls just like her. She was so bouncy and bright. I'm sorry. She lost her cancer fight right before her 6th birthday. I'm sorry. She was beautiful. She is beautiful. You are blessed. I'm so sorry."

She kept saying sorry, as if somehow she had stepped into a sacred moment, somehow made little ripples in our tiny pool with her tears. They were falling like raindrops, upsetting everything, changing everything. They were crashing down, washing away, falling through the surface.

She dried her eyes and kept walking, gone as quickly as she had appeared in our lives.

But, oh my, what lasting ripples she put in my little pool of life!

As my shoulders started to shake and tears ran down my face, everything in that store turned upside down. No longer was I mired in the toy department, stuck on some bored expedition while the more important parts of my life were delayed.

Here I was, selfishly caught up in my own meaningless worries. The grocery list. I looked over at my daughter's curls. She had carefully chosen a blue ponytail to match her shirt. I looked down at the grocery list, squinting through tears.

Vanilla extract- organic?

This? This is what was more important than being present with my children? Fruit and extract and bulbs?

My daughter, recovered from the incident, is dancing and twirling again. Her curls DO bounce. They shine in the bright light of the store.

She's smiling and naming baby dolls. She's living and loving and breathing.

But, I was stressed, tired and preoccupied....over a grocery list? Driving home in traffic? A crying baby?

I was in a moment of time so beautiful and precious that another person would pay a lifetime to see and it passed by me without a second thought. No, I wished it away without a second care.

That crying woman put a ripple in my little life, a reminder we need to hear frequently in this loud world. Everywhere we look, we are told that our motherhood is small. Worthless. Painstaking. Annoying. An inconvenience to navigate around in the store. That woman reminded me that I am privileged to serve my children and to be with them even in the tiniest, most insignificant moments.

Parenting is hard. We are quick to say that it's worth it because we experience really amazing moments. It's as if the good makes up for the bad. Or the mundane days are washed away by the exciting milestones. After this experience, I'm reminded that we can find a way to appreciate, even delight, in the most diminutive moments of parenting.

Delight in every moment, yes, even the hard and mundane times. Someone out there would give her life to spend one minute in the hardest part of your day, if only to see a beautiful child again, hear a voice ring out, touch soft curls.


The Handprints:

Song for a Fourth Child:


Boy, Measles has been all over the media lately, hasn't it? With roughly 80-200 cases annually in the U.S. it's a veritable epidemic, coming to steal your child in the night. We better find the 1% of the population that chooses to remain vaccine-free and flog them for spreading this horrifying (typically self-limiting, non-fatal) disease to all of us fully vaccinated people in the US. This is a national emergency! Be sure to post links on your Facebook wall blaming the insane, crazy anti-vaxxers who are trying to kill everyone.

Oh, I'm sorry. You must be talking about MRSA. Remember MRSA? You don't hear about it much, what with vaccines and measles being in the headlines lately. It's that antibiotic-resistant bacteria pushed into our world thanks in part to overuse of antibiotics. This nasty bug likes to hang out in hospitals and doctor offices where it goes on to infect 1 in 20 people.

Hold on, in case you didn't get that. Thousands of people, including children and babies, contract MRSA annually and thousands of them die.

But about 20 cases of non-fatal measles in Texas draws nationwide rage.


This mainstream article reports that almost 11,000 people die from Staph infections, roughly half of which are caused by MRSA.

This medical study reports that MRSA cases doubled between 2003 and 2008.

These doctors discuss the danger of MRSA and how it has evolved from a hospital-acquired infection to a community spread disease that your baby and child can contract at daycare, school and out in public.

Wait, what's that? Just by taking your child outside your home or to the doctor's office for a well baby visit, you can expose them to MRSA?

Why, following your vaccination logic, that means every single person should be on a preventative medication for MRSA. Everyone, no exemptions, no 1%, no choice or anti-vaxxers allowed.

But, antibiotics don't work against MRSA, that's the point, right? (The same way vaccines don't work against the vaccine viruses that have mutated and are now resistant.)

So, what could be used against MRSA? That would begin saving thousands of lives? What could we be focusing on instead of screaming about vaccines until purple or wringing our hands over the measly handful of measles cases in our country?

Thousands of people are dying from MRSA. Since just a handful of non-fatal measles cases in Texas or NY can cause a nationwide outcry, surely you will go apoplectic over the thousands of people dying from hospital and community acquired MRSA infections. You would do anything right? You would start posting studies on your Facebook walls encouraging everyone to start using this medication, a sort of vaccination so to speak.

If people used this medication, they would save LIVES. You would demand that insurance companies covered this medication and that mothers and fathers were educated on it and that doctors hand it out at well baby visits.

I say, following your pro-vaccine logic, you should make sure every single household has purchased essential oils and manuka honey and that everyone is using them regularly on infants and children. No exemptions. No choice. Clearly if you are not using essential oils and manuka honey, then you are uneducated and a danger to our society. Your dirty, un-oiled kid could be spreading MRSA to my children and others. And MRSA is deadly.

Start posting the links on your wall. Make sure to call non-oilers names such as fanatics and losers. I'm sure you oil up all your children without question. It's your duty, after all, to protect the herd from measles. Er, MRSA. 
RESULTS: MRSA was eradicated from the ulcer and rapid healing was successfully achieved. CONCLUSION: Honey is recognized to have antibacterial properties, and can also promote effective wound healing. A traditional therapy, therefore, appears to have enormous potential in solving new problems. 
CONCLUSION: Manuka honey was effective in eradicating MRSA from 70% of chronic venous ulcers. The potential to prevent infection is increased when wounds are desloughed and MRSA is eliminated. This can be beneficial to prevent cross-infection. Mupirocin was significantly more effective at clearing nasal carriage (78%) than tea tree cream (47%; P = 0.0001) but tea tree treatment was more effective than chlorhexidine or silver sulfadiazine at clearing superficial skin sites and skin lesions. The tea tree preparations were effective, safe and well tolerated and could be considered in regimens for eradication of MRSA carriage. 
These results support previous studies on these oils and suggest an additional option to treat MRSA infections.
FINDINGS: The citrus vapour reduced VRE and MRSA on stainless steel surfaces by 1.5-3log(10) after 24h exposure. Staphylococcal biofilms were reduced both during and after formation, whereas enterococcal biofilms were significantly reduced (P≤0.05) only after formation. Metabolic activitydecreased by up to 72% in strains tested. Two-dimensional digital microscopy showed reductions in biofilm coverage of the stainless steel disc by as much as 99.5%. 
A combination of Citricidal and geranium oil showed the greatest-anti-bacterial effects against MRSA, whilst a combination of geranium and tea tree oil was most active against the methicillin-sensitive S. aureus (Oxford strain).
RESULTS: The development of the biofilm mode of growth of MRSA was observed in the saline-treated control group. In contrast, only focal biofilms were present on the tube surface in experimental group A and considerable reduction of biofilm with destruction of the MRSA cells was shown in experimental group B. CONCLUSION: From these results, the antimicrobial effect of tea-tree oil against biofilm formation on tympanostomy tubes in vitro has been verified.

 More on essential oils and pathogens: 
CONCLUSION: Cinnamon oil, lemongrass oil, cedarwood oil, clove oil and eucalyptus oil exhibit antibacterial property against S. mutans.
CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The use of these essential oils against S. mutans can be a viable alternative to other antibacterial agents as these are an effective module used in the control of both bacteria and yeasts responsible for oral infections. 
Glycopeptide-resistant Enterococcus (GRE) is an important healthcare-acquired infection (HCAI) which costs the healthcare service many millions of pounds worldwide. In this study, lemon (Citrus limon), sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) or bergamot (Citrus bergamia) essential oils (EO) and their vapours, alone and in combination, are tested for their antimicrobial activity against vancomycin-resistant and vancomycin-sensitive strains of E. faecium and E. faecalis. A blend of 1:1 (v/v) orange and bergamot EO was the most effective of the oils and/or blends tested with a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC), at 25 degrees C and pH 5.5, of 0.25-0.5% (v/v) and a minimum inhibitory dose (MID) of 50 mg/L, at 50 degrees C at pH 7.5, when viable counts reduced by 5.5-10 log10 colony forming units (cfu)/mL, suggesting that this blend of citrus oils is effective under a range of conditions for inhibiting the growth and survival of E. faecalis, E. faecium and VRE. 
Eugenol (4-allyl-1-hydroxy-2-methoxybenzene) was tested for antiviral activity against HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses. In vitro, it was found that the replication of these viruses was inhibited in the presence of this compound. Inhibitory concentration 50% values for the anti-HSV effects of eugenol were 25.6 microg/mL and 16.2 microg/mL for HSV-1 and HSV-2 respectively, 250 microg/mL being the maximum dose at which cytotoxicity was tested. Eugenol was virucidal and showed no cytotoxicity at the concentrations tested. Eugenol-acyclovir combinations synergistically inhibited herpesvirus replication in vitro. Topical application of eugenol delayed the development of herpesvirus induced keratitis in the mouse model.
This study showed the beneficial effects of the essential oils of T. serpyllum and T. vulgaris grown in Ash-shoubak in inhibiting the growth of microbes and the implications this could have in pharmacy and food technology. The oil showed pronounced antibacterial and antifungal activity than 1,8-Cineole and α-Pinene against all of the tested microbes. Furthermore, the survival rates and morphological changes of S. aureus after treatment with different concentrations of the essential oil were assessed by flow cytometry (FCM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM).
The oil exerted a marked inhibition against multidrug-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) Enterococcus faecalis.

On the blog:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Jewish Intactivists: "Protect the Well-Being of our Sons"

Kahal, an active social group for Israeli parents with intact sons, counts thousands of Israeli Jews among it's members.
Kahal, a community group for Israeli parents with intact sons is active and counts thousands of Israeli Jews among it's members.

Intactivism—the movement to end circumcision—continues to win social acceptance worldwide, including in the Jewish state of Israel. Jews in the holy land are increasingly open to questioning circumcision, much more so than in the United States. In recent years, Jewish Intactivists have published articles and essays in some of Israel’s largest papers including Haaretz(Israel’s largest and most influential daily paper), 927mag, and the Jerusalem Post. A variety of active Intactivist groups such as Gonnen (Protect the Child)The Israeli Organization Against Genital Mutilation/Intact Son, and Kahal (a community group for parents of intact sons) have sprung up. The leaders of Kahal say that thousands of Israeli Jews are choosing to keep their sons intact.

We are Israeli Jews who are proud of our heritage and religion, and who see a need to make adjustments to protect the well-being of our sons. Judaism is a religion of constant evolution and ethical advancement. Early in Judaism animal sacrifice was abandoned, and Rabbis chose to abolish capital punishment. Many Jews and Israelis recognize that it is time that circumcision shift into a symbolic ritual such as the well-popularized Brit ShalomOver 100 Rabbis are willing to do a Bris ceremony without circumcision, and this includes some Rabbis in Israel.

Jewish Intactivists: "Protect the Well-Being of our Sons"

“When my beloved son was born I didn’t circumcise him. It was an easy and natural step, which I saw as an expression of my existence as a free man.

I’m opposed to circumcision, and also have reservations about the use of the term ‘brit milah’ (‘covenant of circumcision’). It involves cutting the infant’s sexual organ, and I am opposed to the cutting of the sexual organs of boys and girls. Until now, I have naturally focused my efforts at persuasion on the population of secular parents. After all, it’s quite strange that people without any religious faith anxiously keep track of every heartbeat of their infant in the womb, run with him to the monitor, sonogram and every possible pregnancy test, guard him carefully from the moment of his birth – and then hasten to cut his sexual organ.

The ‘Jewish circumcision,’ however, is performed by a mohel who is not necessarily a doctor, and always without anesthesia. This is an invasive and brutal act – abuse of a helpless infant, which I am certain will be outlawed in the future... According to Jewish law, a Jew is someone born to a Jewish mother and, according to a more progressive approach, anyone who sees himself as belonging to the Jewish people. There were periods and communities in Jewish history in which circumcision was not practiced – from the days of ancient Egypt up to the Communist bloc. Moses was opposed to circumcision and didn’t circumcise his son, and the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan into Canaan uncircumcised.

Circumcision does not determine that a person is Jewish, and non-circumcision does not determine that a person is not Jewish. So to come and claim that the preservation of Jewish identity rises and falls with the cutting of the sexual organs of infants? That this is the most basic symbol that guarantees the survival of Jewish society? That this is the strongest tie connecting the Jewish people to itself and its God? More than faith? More than the Torah and the Ten Commandments? More than the State of Israel and the Land of Israel?

In light of such groundless claims, both religious and nonreligious Jews should start asking themselves questions.”
~Uri Misgav, Let’s talk about circumcision. The idea that Judaism is inextricably linked to circumcision must be challenged and corrected. Haaretz (Israel), Jan. 2, 2014.

“I am a Jewish filmmaker and I have been invited by the Council of Europe to its Parliamentary Assembly next week. By screening my television documentary It’s a Boy! For European parliamentarians I aim to help shore up their commitment to protection of children’s right to physical integrity – a key step toward ending ritual circumcision of boys….

From a very young age attending Jewish schools my personal preoccupation was the Jewish thirst for justice and our empathy for suffering. Tsa’ar ba’alei chayim, the Jewish injunction to heed the distress of living beings, became the wellspring of the filmmaking I’m most proud of, including films about Israeli society, its past, present and future.…

Had I known such facts earlier, my son would have remained intact, as is the case with increasing numbers of Jewish boys today, including thousands in Israel… Parents like me know from our remorse that it was wrong to make such an irreversible, painful and dangerous decision for our children. We owed our children protection, and we owe it to our communities not to be silenced when we have erred as parents. …boys from all backgrounds need the protection of the rule of law – secular law – wherever they may live.

The necessity for this now in Israel is obvious. To deprive children of Jewish and Muslim descent in any country of full legal protection because of their lineage amounts to a most perverse kind of prejudice against those children. As for any attempt by real anti-Semites to latch onto this issue, that would be denounced publicly. But then real anti-Semites are not usually the people keen to protect Jewish children from harm, and real anti-Semites would probably like nothing better than continuance of a practice that stokes anti-Jewish feelings and for generation after generation inflicts suffering on Jewish boys. Children’s right to physical integrity should be what Israeli parliamentarians defend – rather than a brutal anachronism.”
~Victor Shoenfeld, Circumcision – defending the indefensible, Jerusalem Post, 01/22/2014.

“There is a small but growing movement of Jewish parents who reject ritual circumcision, and I think it’s going to spread fast because they’re saying out loud what so many Jewish parents are thinking: ‘Why?’ And this, I believe, is the best answer to the problem: Stand up for your kid and say no. If you fear and abhor the ritual, don’t let anyone perform it on him. He’ll still be Jewish if you raise him Jewish – whatever anyone says.”
~Larry Derfner, Stand up for your son: Say ‘no’ to ritual circumcision, 972mag (Israel), June 29, 2012.


“Hard though it may be to hear, irreversibly removing a healthy body part – in this case, part of a boy’s genitals – without consent, violates a person’s right to bodily integrity, a cornerstone of post-Holocaust human rights law. It also undermines that child’s right to an open future....

Supporters of circumcision also say it’s an ancient, meaningful practice. But neither longevity nor meaning is usually accepted as sufficient moral justification to override individual rights. As one Orthodox Jewish father, Elie Jesner, puts it, “Mankind has been doing horrendous things for thousands of years: slavery, capital punishment, condemning homosexuals, oppressing women. That is not a club of actions I want to be part of.”

From a Jewish perspective, there are other issues. First, circumcision does not confer Jewish status. As Shaye Cohen, professor of Hebrew literature and philosophy at Harvard University, explains, “Male and female offspring of a Jewish mother are Jewish by birth under Jewish law; the male offspring are Jewish by birth even if they are left uncircumcised.” Second, biblical circumcision was not as extensive as today’s variant, which is actually an innovation of rabbis in the Hellenic period trying to stop Jewish men from restoring their foreskins. Evidently, definitional Jewish practices can and have evolved.

Given all of this, it’s not surprising that some Jews are questioning the practice. A 2006 online survey reported in Haaretz found that nearly a third of parents of boys would prefer to forgo circumcision, but have it done primarily for social reasons. Israel is now home to the intact support group Kahal, while in the United States, Beyond the Bris and Jews Against Circumcision have sprung up.

Jews who question circumcision from the point of view of human rights and medical ethics should be respected, not demonized. But all critics of circumcision must be vigilant about the company they keep, distancing themselves from anyone not exclusively motivated by child protection. There is no place for anti-Semitic arguments or imagery...

Meanwhile, the Council of Europe should stand firm. If it backs down and denies some children their rights because their parents adhere to the Jewish tradition, it would single out only those children for lack of protection. Now that really would be anti-Semitic.
~Dr. Rebecca Steinfeld, It cuts both ways: A Jew argues for child rights over religious circumcision, Haaretz (Israel), Nov. 26, 2013.

“Israeli circumcision critic Eran Sadeh (featured in the above news broadcast) has been working hard to educate Jewish people in Israel about the downsides to foreskin removal. He is the founder of the Israeli group Gonnen Al Hayeled (Protect the Child)and he is also a Beyond the Bris contributing writer. There can be no doubt that Sadeh’s advocacy is playing a large role in getting Israeli parents to think critically about this once universally accepted tradition.”
~Circumcision In Israel Not Taken For Granted Anymore,

”After my exposure to the information regarding circumcision, I refuse to mutilate my baby. I don’t have the right and I do not agree! He was born whole and he will stay whole! His integrity is his full right! The Religious Court has no right to do that! No one in the whole world is authorized to force me to mutilate my son, to cut his penis!... In particular, religious oppression, unnecessary cutting of the penis of a helpless baby? A non-reversible surgical operation! A foreskin does not renew itself!

The baby can not express his own will. The right to decide is his alone. It is his body! The right, is not mine, nor anyone else’s in the entire world, but his own only!”
Elinor, Israeli Mom, Jewish Mom Makes Intactivist Case in Israel.


Jewish Intactivist Resources and Groups
Cut: A Movie by an Orthodox Jewish Intactivist.
Jews Against Circumcision
Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective By Ron Goldman, Ph.D.
Beyond the Bris by Rebecca Wald. (A Jewish Intactivist Weblog.)

Judaism, the Foreskin and Human Rights.
Rabbis on a Covenant without Circumcision
Jewish Spirituality, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 1.
Jewish Spirituality, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 2.
Jewish Spirituality, the Foreskin, and Human Rights | Part 3.

Israeli Intactivist Groups (Mostly in Hebrew)
Intact Son
Protect the Child
Kahal (Group for Israeli Parents of Intact Sons)

Peaceful Covenant Texts for Jewish Parents.
HowJudaic is the circumcision?An Israeli Hebrew scholar on Biblical intactivism.
100+ Rabbis who lead covenant without cutting ceremonies worldwide.
Brit B'lee Milah Ceremony
A Brit Shalom Ceremony
Song for an Intact Jewish Boy’s Welcoming. 

Jewish Intactivist Families: Jewish Parents' Experiences Keeping their Sons Intact.

Laura Shanley: A Jewish Woman Denounces Circumcision | A Jewish Childbirth Educator keeps her sons intact.
Moshe Rothenberg: Ending Circumcision in the Jewish Community? | Envisioning an Intactivist Judaism..
Michael Kimmel: The Kindest Un-Cut: Feminism, Judaism, and My Son's Foreskin | Published in Tikkun.
Intact & Jewish | Published on the Natural Parents Network.
The Naming | Published on Very, Very Fine
Diane Targovnik: How "Cut" Saved My Son's Foreskin: A Movie Review | Published on Beyond the Bris.
Humanistic Judaism is Increasingly Intactivist.
Circumcision Questions (letter from an intact Jew). |  Published in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin.
Outlawing Circumcision: Good for the Jews? By Eli Ungar-Sargon. Published in the Jewish Daily Forward.
Dear Elijah: A Conservative Jewish Father's Letter to His Intact Son | Published on Peaceful Parenting.
Stacey Greenberg: My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin | Published in Mothering Magazine.

My Past is Defeated for My Children’s Future Guest Post

By Jennifer Lee Wright
When I was little, about 3 or 4, I was adopted.  I actually spent time in an orphanage like the one in the movie Annie.  I remember standing in a big long line waiting on my turn to get into the bathtub where there were 2 ladies. One put you in and washed you up, the other took you out and dried you off as the next person was getting in.  There were sleeping quarters full of beds separated by girls and boys.  I remember the day my adopted mom and dad came and picked me out and took me home.  I screamed, cried, and kicked the worker carrying me out the whole way.  
I wish I could say I was taken into a home full of love and that they planted in me a love of Jesus, but I'd be lying if I said that.  Although my new dad was a Baptist preacher, it was a home filled with religiousness and rules.  He preached against celebrating Christmas and Easter because they were Pagan holidays. I heard a lot in his sermons about backsliding, damnation, and heathens.  When I asked my mom how you got 'saved' I was told that I'd just know.  One day I would have this feeling of walking on clouds and feeling as light as air and I'd just KNOW that I had been saved.  Seriously!  That's what I was told!  and while we prayed before meals, I don't ever remember there being conversations about Jesus or how he died for my sins and most certainly I was never told how much he loved me.  Forgiveness and grace were never spoken, only rules and judgement.  
It was a home in which I was scared to death each day as my bus came near home to drop me back off.  Feeling like I was going to throw up in fear of what mess my mother may have found in my closet or under my bed while I was gone.  There was a wooden paddle that sat on top of the refrigerator that was frequently used.  I would be spanked until there were bruises.  Sometimes, mom would just get mad and start hitting and I’m not sure why.  Coat hangers on bare skin, an ink pen repeatedly stabbed into the back of the child that poked another with it, biting a child’s hand until it bled to teach her not to bite, etc. (These were foster children who were placed with her because of terrible home conditions, who were in need of a safe place to be.) There was little compassion for typical kid things.  Spilled water glass at the table, spanked.  Crying cause I was stung by a bee, spanked as well as ridiculed for being such a baby.  There was plenty of verbal abuse as well.  I grew up thinking I had no common sense, was stupid, and couldn’t do anything right.
It wasn’t just my mom, it was my dad too. I remember very vividly after a spanking when I was about 6 years old and being sat back at the kitchen table thinking how much I hated him and how badly I wanted to be big and strong so I could hurt him back and show him what it’s like.  I envisioned wrestling him and hitting him back when he came at me.  However, I can’t for the life of me tell you why I had been spanked in the first place.  So much for teaching me a lesson, huh?  These people were PRAISED by others in their circle as having done such a wonderful thing by rescuing me from the orphanage and giving me a home, love, and raising me in the church.  *gag*  
After 25 years of marriage, they ended up divorcing.  Dad broke the news to Mom on Mother’s Day that he was turning her in for a newer, younger version.  Now ain’t that sweet of him?  This also meant he was removed from the church and no longer allowed to preach.
My mom went on a crash diet and lost 100 pounds. She developed lumps on her tongue from malnutrition.  One morning she woke up puking blood.  She was a diabetic and her blood sugar was so high she should have been dead.  It was in the 600's when she got to the hospital.  A few months later, she had open heart surgery for a triple bypass.
She was very sick and weak after her surgery, so she enlisted my brother that was 10 years older than me to wield the paddle.  He was her biological son.  I remember there being quite an argument over it the first time as she’s guilting him into doing it telling him that if he won’t, she will...and that she’ll probably have a heart attack doing it.  All while I stood at the end of her bed with my pants down.  I guess I was about 10 or 11 at that point.  I only remember her using him for this purpose maybe 2 or 3 times.  Once she got her strength back she carried out the punishments herself again.
One morning when I was 13, we found her on the floor of the living room surrounded by vomit.  She'd suffered a massive stroke in the night.  She was rushed to the hospital where she passed away about a week later. Sadly, the most overwhelming feeling I had was relief.  Relief that this woman could no longer hurt me.  And that made me feel guilty because she was my mom.  I was supposed to be sad and miss her and a whole range of other emotions.
I was then sent to live with my adopted dad and his new wife.  More misery.  He wasn't abusive, per say, but the rules were ridiculous.   He did spank me once when I was 14.  It didn’t hurt, but I was highly embarrassed and ashamed that he would touch me like that.  I wasn’t a small child anymore.  Why was he so angry he felt the need to try to hurt me?  Again, can’t tell you what for.  
The step mom seemed to hate me and was constantly trying to get me in trouble.  Like, when I washed dinner dishes if one was not cleaned thoroughly enough, I got grounded, and dishes were inspected nightly.  Even SMELLED!  Because apparently eggs leave behind a smell on plates.  ???  I had to write sentences if I forgot to push the chair up to the table after dinner.  Or I wrote sentences if I pushed it up too far!  I couldn’t have it actually touch the table because it might crease the backing of the chair and over time cause damage.  If I forgot to make my bed before school or if a sock was left on the floor, I was grounded.  A week for every offense.  Basically that meant I was ALWAYS grounded.  Sentenced to my room with no tv, no radio, no telephone, and only allowed to leave the house to go to school or work.  I started working when I was 13 at a greenhouse.  Partly for sanity reason, but mostly because my dad told me to get a job.  I had to give my paycheck to him and he would then give me my lunch money for school out of it.  I was never given my own money to do with as I wanted.
After a particularly bitter time at home where my step mom slapped me across the face,  I just reached the point where I’d had enough.  I went to a friend's house and refused to come home.  My dad tried to make me come home or go to jail.  I chose jail.  So off to the police station we went.  We were forced to start family counseling in which the counselor agreed that I needed to find a new home.  The environment I was in was unhealthy.  He (the counselor) would often drop in on me at school to check and see how I was doing.  At 15, arrangements were made for me to go live with another family.  As my dad dropped me off, there were no hugs or be-goods, or take-care-of-yourself’s.  Instead,  he told me to NEVER contact him or any of his family again.  
The last couple years of school are a total blur.  I honestly don't know HOW I managed to graduate. Apparently a couple of the teachers saw some potential and put me in a work study program, which made me feel useful and have a reason to go everyday.  Most of the time though I went to school high or hungover.  When I finally graduated, I moved out as soon as I was 18.  I started going to college, but that didn't last long.  I was too busy having 'fun'.  
I found that an easy way to make money and party at the same time was to work in the bars. I didn't really like the taste of alcohol, only the effect, so I did a lot of shots.  It allowed me to get on stage with my barely covered nipples and miniscule G string and shake my butt for dollar bills.  It allowed me to stand in front of men and let them look at me in ways that, at the time, made me feel as though they liked me, or that I was special, or had something special and was desirable. I actually really enjoyed it at the time.  I felt that I had a power over men and had something they wanted.  In my heart of hearts, looking back at that time, all I was really wanting was to be loved, but I had no clue what it meant to be loved, let alone respected, appreciated or even accepted. I so badly just wanted to be liked and have friends and people that cared about me.  I had nothing and no one.
Many times I woke up the next morning not sure how I had gotten home.  Other times I would be really messed up and would lay in bed at night wanting so badly to not do these things.  I would pray and make promises to God to not do it anymore.  Only to get up the next morning and start all over.  I wanted to do better, but I truly had no idea how.  All I knew was that I was disappointing God and he must be mad at me.  I had broken all the rules and everything I had been taught and for some reason, I didn't have the willpower to do better.
I met my husband at one of those bars.  He was working there as an assistant manager and bouncer to put himself through college.  Within 2 weeks we were living together.  I quit dancing and started looking for other jobs.  Not so much because I felt what I was doing was wrong, but because I spent all my time talking with him when I was there and not making any money!  
Anyway, fast forward to several months later, I was invited to go on a weekend church retreat by someone.  While there, I sat alone the first night looking up at the stars.  I asked God that if he was real and could hear me, to show me a shooting star.  I had never seen one before and I'd always wanted to.  About 30 seconds later, I saw a shooting star!  I started crying.  He was real!  And He could hear me and answer me!  This was amazing to me!
That was the start of my Christian walk.  I think.  I had been baptized when I was 9 and thought I'd 'been saved', but this time was different.  It was real.  It was personal, and it was sincere.  I wanted so badly to be different and I needed a savior.  So I got baptized again.
Miracle of all miracles, the man I loved stayed with me through all of this.  We got married just a few months later.  No one really expected it to last, but so far we’ve lasted almost 20 years!   So goes to show don’t judge a relationship based on how it started.  :)
Whenever we talked about having kids, I would advocate for spanking.  I used to print off articles by Dobson as to the benefits of it and the how to’s of spanking and why, as a Christian, it was a necessary tool of discipline.  He always disagreed and never wavered on his opinion.  He too had come from a not so great family.  A broken home, twice over.  Mostly it was neglect though, as his mom would work three jobs and leave the kids home alone to care for themselves.  But there was also some spanking, yelling, or other things.  His older brother was abusive and would beat on him sometimes if he didn’t do what he wanted him to.  
We took time to grow up together before we had kids.  We sowed our wild oats so to speak.  We were kind of living a double life, really.  We went through the motions, went to church, went to small group bible studies, talked the talk, but at home, after work, and on weekends, we’d meet up with friends at the bar, smoked up in the parking lot with friends.  We looked and acted just like every other person our age that we knew.  I can’t say we weren’t ‘saved’ at that point.  We had many discussions about God, about moral beliefs from the bible, about Jesus, about who he was and what he’d done.  We were kind of living an in between life.  We had one foot in the door of Christianity and one foot still in the world and living like everyone else partying it up.
Finally, after being together for over 5 years, my husband graduated college and we hung up our partying hats by deciding to start a family.  We got serious about seeking God’s place in our lives.  This is the point where I can say that we really started growing as Christians.  
After a year of being sober and trying, we became pregnant with our first child.  Something changed.  Deeply, drastically, beyond anything else I’ve ever experienced before in my life, upon becoming a mother.  Suddenly, I NEEDED God in ways I’d never known or thought was possible.  I didn’t want to mess this up.  I needed him in my marriage, I needed him in my mothering, I needed him in everyday things.  But more, I learned a whole new side of, and understanding of…  I was also forced to face the demons of my past and sort through them.  I had to think upon and work through how I had been raised.  I had to realize that I didn’t have a family unit around me to help me in my new role of life.  It was devastating, heartbreaking, and healing all at the same time.
One huge life changer for me was when I held my baby.  I would look at her and I would feel such a huge, breathtaking emotion that I couldn’t understand or put into words.  All I knew was that I loved this child in greater proportions than I even knew was possible.  I felt as though I was going to explode, I had so much going on inside.  Finally the dam, that wall of protection I’d built up inside of me to be strong and carry on, broke and the flood burst forth.  I broke at the realization of what had been done to me as a child came flooding in with a clarity that made me ache to my core.  I wept out of heartbreak for myself as well as for the healing laying in my arms at a chance of a new kind of life.  A chance to break the cycle. Tears just poured out of me in a cleansing way and washed away my pain as pure love filled me from within that I never knew existed.  
As I looked at this child so small, so helpless, and so dependant on me for her everything, I simply could not imagine ever treating her the way I had been treated.  How could THAT be good and right and lovely?  It flew in the face of everything I knew about God.  Granted, I didn’t know much, but I was learning that he wasn’t the God I had been taught as a child.  He was a God of love, grace, forgiveness, peace, mercy, patience, kindness and goodness.
Oh how God turned my world upside down to bring me to where he needed me to be for just this time of my life.  I feel as though I just started living the day I became a mother.  Everything else leading up to it was just a practice in messed up life that I never want to go back to.  Mothering is simply put, the hardest and most rewarding experience you can ever have.  It’s also been the single most used tool for God to teach me of himself.  That first year I died.  I died to self.  I died of who I thought I wanted to be.  I died of being the kind of mother I thought I was going to be, and I embraced the piece of God inside of me and allowed Him to lead me to be the kind of mother He thought I ought to be.
I’m now over a decade into my life changing journey of motherhood and I’m starting to see the fruits of our labors.  The labors so many people told me along the way was not right.  That I was spoiling my child.  I was creating bad habits.  That it was unbiblical.  Many reasons to not listen to the little voice within me, but I refused to listen to anyone other than the heart that was within me of which God wrote his will upon.  
Do I have perfect kids?  No.  Am I a perfect mother? No.  Is their dad perfect? No.  There’s no such thing.  But I’m giving it everything I’ve got within me to be and do better than I was given and taught.  I hope my children never know the fear of coming home not knowing what kind of mood mom might be in.  What they might have done that might warrant being struck today.  I want them to know only my love.  I want them to remember our night time snuggles.  Our soothing them from fear in the dark.  Our loving them unconditionally.  
We are not perfect, nor do we all love perfectly, but we try. Not perfect, only progress.  I'm a broken mess and at times I'm not even sure that I KNOW how to be loved, let alone how to love another person.  I've been abused, neglected, and abandoned time and time again, yet God is healing those broken places and giving me people in my life that I can count on and love.  I’m learning how much God loves me and how much he’s always there for us. And one day...I will be perfect.  And so will you.  
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

It takes on quite a deep meaning when applied to parenting, eh?