Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Question! About the Bris . . .






 If you weren't observant/Jewish do you think you would still circumcise your son? Why/why not?


I'm conflicted about the issue. I don't really know where I stand (truthfully also don't have enough information to form a very solid opinion). I'm  sure that if he were not Jewish, my highly overprotective husband would not have circumcised our son. And, if I were not caving in to pressure from my husband, or didn't identify as Jewish, and worry that my son might feel the need to get one on his own later, I would not have either. But I did. My son is okay, and it is what it is. But ethically, I'm really not sure that it was right or alright to do. To do it because of the story of Abraham is kinda sickening to me, really. The man heard voices and was going to kill his son. Today he would be classified as a psychopath.

The opinions I did have/My ground rules:
The mohel had to be a doctor.
He had to use anaesthetic. Not to, in my opinion, is horribly cruel.
Absolutely no metzizah be peh.
I wanted as small a number of observers as possible. Throwing a party while recovering from a long labor/giving birth, and to to celebrate an unnecessary surgery: not really something I wanted to do.

In short, I went through with the bris, but I'm not sure it's something I would do were it not for cultural pressure. And I don't know if that's a good enough reason.







33 comments:

  1. From Pharyngula on the science of circumsision.
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/06/something_has_stirred_up_the_a.php

    Now Salon has followed up with an article that suggests that circumcision may actually have some health benefits. I am not impressed. They cite a couple of incomplete epidemiological studies in African populations for HIV infection, and they come up with some astounding figures: a 50-60% reduction in infection rates. Wow, with that kind of advantage…sign me up.

    However, these are deeply flawed studies. None of them were completed: they all abandoned the protocol and stopped the research as soon as preliminary results gave them positive values. This is like shooting craps and announcing that all your dice throws were practice…until you get a good roll, and then, yeah, that was the real deal. That one counts.

    They all overstate their results. That 50-60% reduction was in relative rate, in comparison across the two groups. The actual calculated protection in absolute terms conferred by circumcision was a 2% reduction in the likelihood of infection. That doesn't dazzle me, either, and given that the studies were terminated when they got their best results, I'm not persuaded.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the link Andy!

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    2. There are a lot of websites that thoroughly debunk the myth that cutting is beneficial to anyone except the collector of the fee. Search the internet. Do not mutilate your child.

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  2. I think I would, simply because it’s almost universal in the US, and seems on the whole to be neutral – it doesn’t really help or hurt. (Well, aside from when it’s first done. That was unpleasant. Though I’m not sure which was worse, the embarrassment of them taking off my diaper in front of everyone or the actual circumcision.)

    My wife is a nurse, and she’s told me that she almost never sees uncircumcised men.

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    1. In the USA up until the 90s, around 95% of men were circumcised. But in the last 20 years the numbers have dropped to about 35%. The reason is that people are more informed about the evils of procedure

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    2. Ami - where is this stat from? If there has been a dramatic drop, could it be because of sociological changes - e.g. influx in immigration of people where circumcision is not the norm? Maybe shifts in religious norms. Around me, maybe my non-Jewish friends are being overly polite, but I don't get the impression that they don't circumcise because they have been "informed about the evils", but just there was no compelling reason for them to circumcise.

      G*3 - I wonder if it's different here in Canada, or if there's a generational shift. I know few non-Jews this generation who circumcised their boys (off hand I can only think of a colleague, and someone who circumcised one of her boys because he was prone to infection).

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    3. One of the big reasons for the drop here (Ontario, Canada) is simply that it's no longer covered by OHIP. When you aren't used to paying anything for medical care, and someone tells you that the procedure may cost a few hundred dollars, people think twice.

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    4. Good point JRK! I recently had a conversation with someone who is not Jewish who had one son circumcised because he was very prone to infection (incidentally OHIP required TEN infections before they would agree to cover the procedure). When she looked into getting her second son circumcised as a preventative measure, because he was older than 6 months, the family would have had to pay $2000, which was prohibitive for them, and they decided not to pursue it.

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    5. The cost is getting higher because of all the lawsuits...more infections due to circ than leaving the child natural. In most cases, infections are due to improperly disinfected diapers or lack of proper hygiene.

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  3. My brain says no, my heart says yet. Circumcision is one of the last rituals abandoned by the nonobservant, so if I were in any way tied to the Jewish community, I'd probably do it.

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    1. You have to put what you know into practice...stop mutilating children. Your heart should be FOR your child, not your religion. Let your child decide when he is an adult. What, you don't think (it's possible).

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  4. NO NEVER! People that say it doesn't hurt are simply uninformed. Rather than go on a very emotional rant, I will simply share this link. But please please please, read more on the subject before you decide to forcibly remove a body part from a defenseless baby.
    (Some of the arguments on this list are not as great as others, but the facts are sounds).
    http://www.thewholenetwork.org/14/post/2011/08/50-reasons-to-leave-it-alone.html

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    1. If you can watch this video and tell me your heart cannot decide to leave the child natural, your heart ain't beating.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDuDhkiDdns

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  5. If I wasn't Jewish, it would depend on a combination of 1) social norms - I wouldn't want my son to feel abnormal/unaesthetic below the belt, and 2) conventional health wisdom - does the removal of foreskin substantially lower the probability of contracting disease?

    The man heard voices and was going to kill his son.

    You have to watch this comedy sketch about Abraham and Isaac.

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    1. Have seen the sketch - love it!

      >it would depend on a combination of 1) social norms

      Which is probably why my feelings on this are so mixed. Our Jewish friends all do, our non-Jewish friends by and large do not. My son was the only one at daycare, but starting elementary (in about 2 years) he will be at a Jewish school, and so the reverse will be true.

      2) conventional health wisdom
      My impression - like G*3 said - of the medical party line is that it's neutral, so I think if not for cultural reasons, most would err on the side of not unnecessarily subjecting infants to surgery.

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    2. If you did this to your son, you are cruel and ignorant.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDuDhkiDdns

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    3. If you do not watch the entire video I would assume that you don't care much about what happens to your child.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDuDhkiDdns

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  6. Answering as a Jew, I'd say this - of course it's barbaric. Of course it's based more on superstition and ancient rites of passage than on anything conclusive about health. And it goes without saying that no deity came to Abraham and told him to do it. Circumcision was practiced by other peoples in the ancient world (including the Egyptian priesthood/aristocracy), and as a self-styled "nation of priests" we did it as well.

    Bu at the end of the day, I'd be more concerned about the cruelty of not circumcising my son, potentially putting him in a position where he feels alienated as a Jew, and curses his parents' well-intentioned idealism because now he has to get his bris done himself as an adult. Ouch!

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    1. > putting him in a position where he feels alienated as a Jew

      Your point is how I rationalized going through with the bris. I knew we were going to raise him within Jewish culture, and, I've known men who got circ'd later in childhood (because they left Russia, and were now now trying to adapt to the local Jewish culture). Given that, and the non-negotiable nature of this issue for my husband and his family- I wanted to avoid the scenario you described.

      Nevertheless. . .

      > putting him in a position where he feels alienated as a Jew

      To me this indicates a deep flaw in the Jewish community. Particularly for those of us who are not believers. Why should the extra foreskin be a deal-breaker with regards to cultural identity? We as parents are effectively "branding" our children so they do not get ostracized. I'm really not convinced this is the less cruel of the two options. When we tell our teens "if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?", they can turn around to us and say: "You did." If down the road research strongly points to detrimental effects of circumcision, our children will similarly have a right to resent us - in this case for something that is pretty much irreversible.

      (I still feel very guilty re: the decision. I don't mean for my response to read as judgmental of other parents for their decisions.)

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    2. We as parents are effectively "branding" our children so they do not get ostracized.

      Makes me think of:

      Now the Star-bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars.
      The Plain-bellied Sneetches had none upon thars.
      The stars weren't so big; they were really quite small.
      You would think such a thing wouldn't matter at all.
      But because they had stars, all the Star-bellied Sneetches
      would brag, "We're the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches."


      There's definitely a "Sneetches" component to this which lingers in the background. But I'd imagine that most people wouldn't explicitly say: "The only reason I did it was so you wouldn't get ostracized". They'd think of it in more positive terms - embracing Jewish identity, being part of a chain of tradition, etc.

      If down the road research strongly points to detrimental effects of circumcision, our children will similarly have a right to resent us

      You're absolutely right. I just think it's a lot less likely a scenario.

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    3. > I just think it's a lot less likely a scenario.
      I'm banking on that!

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    4. Your son might want to kick you right between the legs.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDuDhkiDdns

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  7. >The man heard voices and was going to kill his son. Today he would be classified as a psychopath.

    You don't believe the story every took place. Fine. But at least keep it to it's author's plot, which was he heard God's voice. He wasn't schizophrenic

    >Why should the extra foreskin be a deal-breaker with regards to cultural identity?

    Well, the culture revolves around deeds, more than feelings. So how much can you strip off the core deeds (i.e. rituals) before you yourself proclaimed not wanting to be part of the culture? And then turning around and act surprised at others. I don't have a real good answer to this, but where does personal responsibility come into play for your own decisions rather than always finding the defect in others.

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    1. So how much can you strip off the core deeds (i.e. rituals) before you yourself proclaimed not wanting to be part of the culture?

      HH, I agree with you on this one. I can't see willingly forgoing circumcising a child (in the absence of specific medical issues) and then complaining that Jews are unaccepting. To be even a cultural Jew, you have to be willing to submit your child to unnecessary, but generally quite safe, surgery that may have no medical benefits.

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    2. >To be even a cultural Jew, you have to be willing to submit your child to unnecessary, but generally quite safe, surgery that may have no medical benefits.

      I disagree. I don't think cultural Jewish identity should hinge on circumcision. Would you stop thinking of someone as Jewish if they didn't circumcise their children?

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    3. Would you stop thinking of someone as Jewish if they didn't circumcise their children?

      No, of course they are still Jewish - but if I knew they didn't circumcise and had no medical reason, I'd assume they were not interested in Jewish identity or culture.

      I have not met a person who is interested in maintaining some Jewish identity who did not circumcise. Many secular Jews choose hospital circumcision without a mohel, and not on the 8th day, so it does not fulfill the requirements of a Bris; but it's circumcision, nonetheless.

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    4. >if I knew they didn't circumcise and had no medical reason, I'd assume they were not interested in Jewish identity or culture.

      This may possibly be more a reflection of being part of an American Jewish community. In the (local) Russian Jewish community - at least among my parents' peers - one's choice not to circumcise is not seen as a reflection of a weaker Jewish identity.

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    5. Oh ye of little faith, you think of yourselves more than you think of your children...

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDuDhkiDdns

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  8. >Would you stop thinking of someone as Jewish if they didn't circumcise their children?

    Did you mean:

    Would you stop thinking of someone as CULTURALLY Jewish if they didn't circumcise their children?

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    1. Either/or . . . I can tell from her answer, that tesyaa knew what I meant :).

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    2. Offering your child's mind as a living sacrifice is a poor excuse for your fear of excommunication...sexual trauma of an infant will leave lasting scars...fears that will linger forever and keep him a slave to a system of authoritarianism that never sleeps, never satisfied, and endlessly engenders generation after generation. Stand up to the fear and say "NO MORE" of this nasty pus.

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  9. How did it get to be so popular? Clearly, it started off with religious elements. Then it was picked up in a pseudo-medical way, with the medical establishment insisting that it was good since it led to soreness, which would keep children from discovering masturbation. Hence, it would prevent, in their minds, epilepsy, blindness, hairy palms, and so on.

    Now, that's not popular, so medicine has come up with new nonsense as to why all men, everywhere, are born defective. Utter nonsense.

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  10. My feeling is that if your son grows up in the Jewish community, even a non observant one, he would most likely wish he was circumcised at birth. Of course he is free to have it done on his own, so maybe that's not enough of a reason, but if so he would probably wish you would have done it for him at 8 days.
    This being said, if I had a boy I would probably not circumcise him on my own (although I am susceptible to caving in to parental pressure). This being said, my feeling is that it's a male thing and it's daddy's decision to make, and for daddy who is traditional, and circumcised himself and perfectly happy that way, there is no question about it for a second- if it's a boy he's going to be snipped.
    I avoid doing unnecesary medical procedures and am hoping to give birth naturally with a midwife, so my preference would be to do the same thing for my son, however my feelings aren't THAT strong against it- I don't view it as mutilation or anything like that. So it's not something I would make a fight about.
    About having a party at a circumcision- well a new baby should have a party, boys as well as girls, and its kind of expected that the party will be at the circumcision. I'm uncomfortable though with guests gathering around and gawking at the actual circumcision. I always made sure to arrive fashionably late when invited to a bris. I guess i'd have only immediate family at the actual procedure and invite the whole crew afterwards for bagels.
    And, a doctor performing the circumcision aint all its cracked up to be. did you know that the doctors who do the circumcisions are OB/gyns? Not urologists, not pediatricians. (I also know some midwives do it). Often the residents do it, not even the attending doctors. and there are botched circumsicions there too. and i've seen the babies scream awfully even with the anesthetic ointment... I'd rather hire a very experienced mohel known to be extremely gentle, I've heard some of them are and the babies cry only a little bit. I'd make sure to get very good references. I'm with you though, I'd def get a more effective anesthetic and no metzitza b'peh.

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