The Jewish Circumcision Resource Center, an educational organization in Boston that is connected with the Circumcision Resource Center, released a statement on circumcision intended for Jewish Americans. The statement, which is signed by a Statement Task Force of Jews who are actively involved in the issue, raises questions about Jewish circumcision and encourages Jews to engage in critical thinking about the practice.
"We want Jews to know that in this country and abroad, some Jews do not circumcise their sons. Circumcision is a choice, and now that we know the serious harm caused by circumcision, there are strong reasons to forgo it," said Ronald Goldman, Ph.D., Executive Director. Dr. Goldman is the author of Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective, endorsed by five rabbis.
Dr. Goldman also suggests that Jews think about the ethics of causing significant pain and cutting off a natural, healthy body part that has important functions. "There are psychological effects of circumcision, too. Some Jewish men are very dissatisfied, angry, or distressed about being circumcised," said Dr. Goldman.
The Center's statement also seeks to assure Jews that as the subject of circumcision gets more critical attention from Jews and others, the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center will reject any statement or action from circumcision opponents that may be disrespectful or insensitive to Jews and others.
The Center's primary intended audience is those Jews who generally evaluate an idea not solely based on its conformance with the Torah, but also in light of its agreement with reason and experience. For those Jews who decide against circumcision, there are over a dozen rabbis who will lead an alternative welcoming ceremony for baby boys called a brit shalom.
The full text of the statement follows:
The Jewish Circumcision Resource Center of Boston supports Jews who believe that circumcision is unethical and that it is not a necessity for full engagement in Jewish life. We seek to encourage critical thinking about circumcision and dispel various cultural misunderstandings about the practice.
We have learned much from Jewish Americans who have contributed books, films, and research to raise awareness about the history of circumcision in this country, about foreskin anatomy and physiology, and about the serious harm caused by foreskin removal. Consequently, a growing number of Jews in the U.S., South America, Europe, and Israel are making the decision not to circumcise their infants.
Our essential message is that all Jews do have a choice; we can be fully identified and affiliated as Jews, and fully engaged spiritually in a Jewish context, without circumcising our infants. Some families have chosen brit shalom, a beautiful welcoming ceremony for infant boys and girls without genital cutting. We acknowledge the profound place that circumcision has in Jewish tradition and practice. However, we are compelled to question genital cutting out of deep caring and compassion for all infants and children.
Unfortunately, there may be statements and tactics by individuals opposed to circumcision that are insensitive and even offensive to many Jews. We regret this and absolutely reject all statements or actions, often based on ignorance, that are disrespectful of any religion or ethnic group.
Our core principles are simple and unambiguous: infants are people; their bodies belong to them alone. Every person should have the right to make an informed decision about the removal or alteration of any normal, healthy, functioning body part when he or she is older. We advocate preservation of normal, healthy, functioning body parts for all infants and children, male and female, regardless of the culture, religion, or personal beliefs of parents or other adults.
While it may make Jews uncomfortable to question circumcision, the general silence around circumcision leaves some Jews with continuing intellectual, emotional, ethical, and spiritual conflicts about the practice. Some mothers reveal great distress about permitting and watching the circumcision of their sons. Recent information supports their feelings. Studies show that infants experience significant pain and trauma during and after circumcision (lack of crying indicates trauma-induced withdrawal), and behavioral and neurological changes in infants have been observed.
Some dissatisfied men report wide-ranging physical, sexual, and psychological consequences of circumcision, partly because the foreskin has significant physiological and sexual functions. These crucial facts, along with frequently ignored issues such as the various surgical risks of circumcision and its disrupting effects on the mother-infant bond, are changing many Jewish Americans' attitudes toward circumcision.
We ask that our fellow Jewish Americans, whatever their beliefs and attitudes regarding other Jewish traditions, join us in asking these questions: Has removal of infant foreskins really promoted commitment to Jewish identity in America? Are there not other less problematic and potentially much more effective approaches to ensuring that our children, male and female, will grow up to become proud contributing participants in Jewish life in America?
STATEMENT TASK FORCE
Leonard B. Glick, M.D., Ph.D.
Author of Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America
Lisa Braver Moss
Author of The Measure of His Grief
Writer specializing in health, family, and parenting issues
Author of Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective
and "Circumcision: Identity, Gender, and Power"
Writer and speaker
Mark Reiss, M.D.
Executive Vice President of Doctors Opposing Circumcision
Creator and administrator of Celebrants of Brit Shalom
Rebecca Wald, J.D.
Founder of the Beyond the Bris project
Tina Kimmel, PhD, MSW, MPH
Maternal Child Health Epidemiologist
Moshe Rothenberg, MSW
Certified teacher and social worker, Brit Shalom ceremony leader