Circumcision is a Choice
Like the American cultural practice of circumcision, Jewish circumcision (bris or brit milah) is dependent on the acceptance of cultural myths. Of all the myths that Jews believe about circumcision, the one that is paramount is the belief that all Jews circumcise. With this belief, we put ourselves under tremendous pressure to conform.
Bound by this burden to comply with social expectations, most Jewish parents do not recognize that circumcision is a choice. Since open communication about circumcision is discouraged, there is virtually no awareness of others who feel similar conflicts and doubts around circumcision. Moreover, if a Jewish parent does decide not to circumcise a male child, it is not generally known to the rest of the community. As a result, many parents submit to the pressure and then discover only too late, perhaps after witnessing the circumcision of their son, that they wish they had chosen differently. Some parents report that if they could take back one decision, it would be their son’s circumcision.
Who can protest and does not is an accomplice in the act. —The Talmud: Sabbath, 54b
Questioning Circumcision – A Jewish Perspective
This is the first critical examination of the growing controversy of male infant circumcision with special attention to contemporary concerns of the Jewish community. It is endorsed by five rabbis.
“I highly recommend Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective particularly to expectant mothers and fathers early in their pregnancy so that they may have ample time to ponder its contents.”
—Rabbi Raymond Singer, Ph.D.
Our Purpose and Perspective
There is little awareness among Jews of the serious, unrecognized harm of circumcision. (Please see links “Featured Article” and “Nonreligious Circumcision” for more information.) Because of this general lack of awareness and communication, the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center was founded. (JCRC is a section of the Circumcision Resource Center.) Since 1991 the Center has been a source of valuable information for parents and children’s advocates, childbirth educators and allied professionals, medical, mental health, and academic people, Jews, and others. Our Directors and Professional Advisory Board Members consist of researchers and clinicians in the fields of medicine, mental health, and social science. We represent Jews around the world who question circumcision (bris or brit milah). Our primary intended audience is non-traditional Jews, 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. They believe that Jewish practice must be consistent with what they think and feel.
The arguments in favor of circumcision are familiar and readily available. Previous writing on Jewish circumcision has been totally supportive of the practice. It has been rare that writing on Jewish circumcision has mentioned, let alone elaborated on, arguments against the practice. Because the reasons to question circumcision are not well known, they are the focus here. We urge visitors to seriously consider these reasons with an open mind rather than just to react to our position. Readers are encouraged to seek other sources of information and then come to their own conclusions. For a more complete and detailed discussion of questioning Jewish circumcision, see the book Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective by Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.
One purpose of the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center is to make known to the Jewish community that there is a growing number of Jews who either have not circumcised their son or would choose not to circumcise a future son. It is an opportunity for Jews who take this position to declare themselves and to be counted. A confidential list of Jews who contact the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center for this purpose is maintained. The response has been substantial. We have over 400 names representing various countries on file. It is also important to inform the general public, media sources, and professionals of the existence of Jews who do not circumcise. Dispelling the myth outside of the Jewish community that all Jews circumcise will help to support and expand the American and international circumcision debate.
Another purpose of the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center is to gather and disseminate information to interested Jews about the experiences of those who choose to keep their children intact and whole. This information will add to the growing understanding and acceptance of alternatives to circumcision in the Jewish community.
We raise questions about Jewish circumcision with the understanding that these questions may cause feelings ranging from mild discomfort to extreme grief or anger in some individuals. We empathize with and respect these feelings. We also acknowledge the profound place that circumcision has in Jewish tradition and practice. However, we are compelled to break the silence that supports circumcision and raise these questions out of deep caring and compassion for Jews generally and Jewish male infants in particular.
Our concerns are specific to circumcision and do not extend to other Jewish practices and beliefs. We see Jews inflicting extreme unrecognized pain with this practice, and we judge that the perpetuation of this pain is far greater than the pain that comes with confronting the issues we raise. Based on our contacts with hundreds of Jews who do not circumcise in the United States and in countries around the world, there is growing support for this view. We do not underestimate the difficulty in facing these questions and doubts, but the traumatic cries (or quiet shock) of the infants have been ignored far too long. Many Jews are beginning to listen and feel the intense pain of the children and the generally denied pain of the adults that they become.
We trust that the enduring Jewish values of ethics and education will lead more Jews to the realization that circumcision does not serve the best interests of the child or the community of Jews.
Ronald Goldman, PhD, Executive Director
Ronald Goldman, Ph.D., a psychological researcher, speaker, consultant, and writer, is the founder and Executive Director. His groundbreaking investigation of the unacknowledged adverse psychological and social aspects of circumcision includes hundreds of contacts with men, parents, Jews, and medical and mental health professionals.
Dr. Goldman is internationally known for his expert work on circumcision. He is the author of Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma and Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective. The first book, with a foreword by renowned anthropologist Ashley Montagu, is endorsed by dozens of professionals in mental health, medicine, and social science. It includes original work on the connections between circumcision and trauma for infants and the men they become. His book addressing Jewish circumcision is endorsed by five rabbis among others. It is the first such work to critically examine the ritual. Other writing has appeared in medical journals, newspapers, parenting publications, and Jewish periodicals.
Dr. Goldman has participated in over 200 media interviews with radio and television shows, newspapers, wire services, and periodicals, and has been consulted by Time and Newsweek. As a recognized authority, he was invited by the Council of Europe as the only non-European to participate in an interdisciplinary dialogue about circumcision. He was also chosen by the Associated Press to comment on the latest circumcision report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Various circumcision advocates, including chairpersons of the last two American Academy of Pediatrics Task Forces on Circumcision, have declined to debate with him when invited by national media.
Dr. Goldman’s presentations on circumcision and its effects are offered independently to professionals, international symposia, universities, expectant parents, men, and the Jewish community. He also provides counseling for those making the circumcision decision and men who have issues connected with their circumcision.
Also see Dr. Goldman’s website about the origins and prevention of emotional and behavioral problems. HIs information supports improving our personal, social, and political experiences.