Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jewish Intactivist: Miriam Pollack: "That which is not ethical, cannot be spiritual."

Miriam Pollack, MA, is one of the leading Jewish Intactivist scholars. A Jewish mother and active Jew, she was chosen as Intact America’s Intactivst of the Month. Pollack has written for Tikkun, and been interviewed in BeyondTheBris.com. She has led talks with Eli Ungar Sargon, an Orthodox raised Intactivist on the subject. She is part of a group of Intactivist Jews who've made moral arguments for a shift in Jewish interpretation of the bris.
Pollack has lectured on Jewish Intactivism at conferences as early as the 1990's. She is one of more than 200 Bris Shalom celebrants, Jewish leaders who will hold a bris covenant ritual for intact Jewish boys. Pollack visits Israel frequently, and has also helped to connect Jewish Intactivists in Israel with the American movement. She has joined some Rabbis in making ethical and moral cases for an Intactivist interpretation of the Jewish covenant.

"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."

“Judaism has always been a core piece of my identity, even though my practice and understanding have evolved over the years. I have great reverence for what we hold as spiritual. When the authorities of my tradition define the sacred in a way that violates the most elemental and life-giving forces, mothers and babies, then something is very wrong. That which is not ethical, cannot be spiritual. That is a basic Jewish tenet… It is Judaism that has taught me that reverence for life, the principle of pikuah nefesh, and the mandate incumbant upon all of us to distinguish (l’havdeel) between what is holy and what is profane. It is precisely these fundamental tenets of Judaism that have led me to conclude that circumcision is not holy in terms of Jewish ethics.… 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.”Miriam Pollack, Defying Convention: An Interview With Miriam PollackBeyond the Bris, July 27, 2011. 
“…many committed and affiliated Jews… are choosing to welcome their male babies with a brit shalom, a covenantal ceremony without cutting…. Circumcision may be an ancient rite, but it is wrong. It is wrong in terms of Jewish values for it violates the most fundamental Jewish principles of sanctifying life. Spiritualizing the wounding of circumcision does not change the damage, nor make it ethical. As Deuteronomy 30:6 teaches, what is truly required of us in order to contact the divine has to do with the architecture of the heart, not the alteration of male genitals.

Over the ages Judaism has demonstrated a remarkable ability to mutate in practice and retain the integrity of its spiritual legacy. It's time that our gatekeepers lead the way, the people of Israel, will demand the gates be opened.
Miriam Pollack, Rite is ancient, but wrongBoulder Daily Camera, 07/27/2014.

"[Circumcision] be it religious or secular, has no place in a humane society, nor in a religion or culture, such as Judaism, that emphatically values the protection of the helpless, the pursuit of justice, and reverence for life.

As a strongly affiliated Jew, Hebrew speaker, and lover of Israel, I will continue to do what I can to educate other Jews about the very serious harms of circumcision. Certainly, no parent intends to inflict damage upon his or her child, but the misinformation, disinformation, mythologies, and deeply held allegiances are profound and widespread. As couples realize how unholy it truly is to hold another individual down and take a knife to their tender genitals, more and more Jews, both in the U.S and in Israel, are choosing to welcome their babies into the Jewish community with a non-violent ceremony, a brit shalom.

As secular Jews, and even, some orthodox Jews, question and reject circumcision in greater and greater numbers, a tipping point will occur. Certainly, no amount of scientific evidence documenting the suffering of the newborn, or the anatomical importance of the foreskin, will dissuade many of the orthodox from changing this practice, but, hopefully, in the not too distant future, they will be the anachronistic few; the rest of us will have moved on to a more enlightened, gentler and kinder embrace of our precious, newborn baby boys, and redefinition of the most fundamental mitzvah: above all, choose life."
Miriam Pollack, NORM News, 
Winter 2013/2014. 

"Circumcision, both male and female, is a relic from our ancient past... Challenging circumcision inevitably means challenging the ancient notion of what is sacred. Re-naming the sacred is the task which awaits us as we enter the Twenty-First Century. It must be for life."
Miriam Pollack, REDEFINING THE SACRED, Presented at the Fourth International Symposium on Sexual Mutilations, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, August 9-11, 1996.


"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.... 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.

"Without 
compromising either our children’s identity or the survival of our people, we can invite all of our Jewish children, our baby girls and our baby boys, into a brit b’lee milah, a covenant without circumcision, and school them in the wisdom, love, and beauty of the Jewish tradition. Unlike Christianity, which teaches that a child is born into original sin and must be redeemed, Judaism teaches that the soul is pure — only the penis needs “redemption.” The truth is that the whole baby is pure, body and soul, including his tender genitals, and it is both a mitzvah and our most sacred duty to protect him."
Miriam Pollack, Circumcision: Identity, Gender, and Power, Tikkun 26(3), 2011.
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Intactivist Movement Spreads in Israel

Jewish Intactivism. A Jewish Male Human Rights Movement!
Expanding the Rights of Mankind.

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