The movement to welcome newborn Jewish boys into Jewish life without the surgery of circumcision has reached a milestone—over 200 officiants are now available to perform the peaceful welcoming ceremony. Over 120 of these are rabbis. Many of these officiants are members of the Reform, Humanistic, Renewal, and Reconstructionist Jewish movements. Not all of the officiants on the list are opposed to circumcision, but some are. Several Rabbis on the list have intact grandsons, some have intact adopted sons.
Called brit shalom (Hebrew for covenant of peace), this alternative naming ceremony corresponds with traditional brit milah welcoming ceremony, except that there is no cutting of the baby.
“They’re especially happy ceremonies, for that reason,” says Mark Reiss, M.D.
For 14 years, Dr. Reiss, has been recruiting celebrants of brit shalom for his web page. He estimates that an annual 300-500 boys are welcomed into the Jewish community with brit shalom ceremonies in the United States. Most U.S. states, several Canadian provinces, and other countries are represented on Dr. Reiss’ celebrants list. Twelve of the celebrants are in Israel, where a young Jewish Intactivist movement is budding (intactivist = intact + activist).
“The celebrants include rabbis, cantors and other lay leaders, who need not reject circumcision themselves, but want to accommodate parents who do. New celebrants are always welcome,” says Dr. Reiss.
Jewish parents including Natalie Bivas, Moshe Rothenberg, Diane Targovnik, Michael S. Kimmel, Sara Rockwell and Shawn Stark have written about their experiences holding a Brit Shalom and raising intact Jewish sons.
While most celebrants are Rabbis and Cantors a variety of other Jewish Leaders are available to lead these rituals. Other celebrants include professors of Jewish Studies, Synagogue leaders, leaders of Jewish retreats, and Rabbinical students in a variety of Jewish movements.
Those who wish to contact Dr. Reiss to request an officiant, to add their name to the list of celebrants, or to learn more about brit shalom may do so by phone (415) 647-2687 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.