1. Circumcision of male infants is not universal
among American Jews. Some Jews in South America, Europe, and Israel
also do not circumcise. For example, the circumcision rate
among Swedish Jews is reported to be about 40%.
circumcision is a growing topic of debate in the Jewish community
and has been questioned in dozens of articles appearing in such
publications as Moment, Tikkun, Jewish News, Forward, Jewish
Advocate, Jewish Monthly, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Jewish Journal, and
Jewish Times. Two Israeli organizations publicly oppose
circumcision, Kahal Group and Protect the Child.
3. Jewish circumcision has been challenged in
earlier times. In the Hellenistic period (300 B.C.-100 A.D.) some
Jews chose not to circumcise their sons. In the 1840s during the
Reform movement in Germany, circumcision was opposed by Jewish
parents, physicians, and leaders.
4. Originally only the tip
of the foreskin was cut, called milah. This practice lasted about
2000 years. During the Hellenistic period, many young Jews concealed
their circumcision by drawing their foreskins forward. The rabbis of
the time decided to change the requirements of the procedure so that
a circumcised male could not possibly be altered to appear
uncircumcised. This was the start of periah, removing the
5. According to the Encyclopedia
Judaica, "any child born of a Jewish mother is a Jew, whether
circumcised or not." This restrictive definition is based on
Orthodox belief. Other Jews recognize that one can be Jewish based
on the status of either parent and, of course, conversion.
The biggest threat to Jewish survival is assimilation. There is no
evidence that circumcision slows it. Despite circumcision, about
half of all Jews who married in recent years chose a non-Jewish
7. The religious origin of Jewish circumcision is in
the Torah. It says that God told Abraham "every male among you shall
be circumcised" (Gen. 17) as part of a covenant between God and the
Jewish people. However, most Jews are unaware of this origin, and in
a survey of American Jews, the large majority (87%) do not believe
that the Torah is the actual word of God.
8. In actual
practice, many Jews circumcise because of cultural conformity, not
religious reasons. Based on a national survey of American Jews, "90
percent define being Jewish as being a member of a cultural or
ethnic group." Most circumcisions of male infants of American Jewish
parents are done in hospitals without any religious
Jewish circumcision has never had anything to do with health concerns.
No national medical organization in the world recommends routine
circumcision of male infants. Many advise against it. See
www.circumcision.org and doctorsopposingcircumcision.org.
10. Jewish law acknowledges the remote
possibility of death resulting from the surgery and allows for
exemptions when other children in the family have died from the
effects of circumcision.
11. Ritual circumcisers (mohelim)
usually use the same clamp devices as doctors. In fact, training
programs for Reform and Conservative mohelim require a valid medical
license for certification. Consequently, there is little reason to
believe that circumcisions performed by mohelim are less painful for
Circumcision is traumatic. Some infants do not cry because they
withdraw in shock. There are long-term adverse psychological effects
from this trauma. See www.circumcision.org and
13. Circumcision creates
cognitive dissonance. Beliefs are created to justify and defend the
practice and reduce the emotional discomfort and dissonance between
what we believe and what we experience. Nevertheless, some Jewish
parents who have observed their son's circumcision have described it as
extremely distressing for them and have regretted their decision for
Maimonides, the renowned physician, philosopher, and rabbi, wrote,
"Circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement, and sometimes
lessens the natural enjoyment." Contemporary research, and reports from
men circumcised as adults, confirm this. For more information on the
adverse sexual effects see www.circumcision.org and
Circumcision is inconsistent with significant Jewish laws and
values. For example, the human body must not be altered or marked.
The Torah also prohibits the causing of pain to any living creature.
Since circumcision causes extreme pain, some Jews believe that
circumcision is not ethical. Jewish values place ethical behavior
16. For those who want a ritual, a growing
number are turning to alternative equivalent rituals for male and
female infants. This is consistent with reforming Judaism to be more
17. Jewish boys who are not circumcised are
accepted by others and have had bar mitzvahs.
18. The primary consideration is the welfare of the child.
© Jewish Circumcision Resource Center. All