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Jewish Family in Canada Opts 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.

Following Our Hearts: A Father's Brit Shalom Journey

By SHAWN STARK

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.

"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.

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 BeyondtheBris.com. Reprinted with permission.

Links related to Judaism and Intactivism

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

Israeli Intactivist Groups (Mostly in Hebrew)
The Israeli Association Against Circumcision / Intact Son
Protect the Child
Kahal (Group for Israeli Parents of Intact Sons)

Peaceful Covenant Texts for Jewish Parents.
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Judaism, the Foreskin and Human Rights.
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Jewish Understanding, the Foreskin, & Human Rights | Part 1.
Jewish Understanding, the Foreskin, & Human Rights | Part 2.
Jewish Understanding, the Foreskin, & Human Rights | Part 3.

Jewish Intactivist Families: Jewish Parents' Experiences Keeping their Sons Intact.
Following Our Hearts: A Jewish Father's Brit Shalom Journey
Laura Shanley: A Jewish Woman Denounces Circumcision
Moshe Rothenberg: Ending Circumcision in the Jewish Community?
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.
Michael Kimmel: The Kindest Un-Cut: Feminism, Judaism, and My Son's Foreskin | Published in Tikkun.
Circumcision Questions (letter from an intact Jew). | Published in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin.