Thoughts and Feelings

Excerpts from Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective
by Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.

“I had profound doubts about my decision [to circumcise]. But because open discussion of Brit Milah seems to be discouraged in the Jewish community, I experienced my doubts privately and without comfort. . . . Thus, a rite intended to inspire feelings of Jewish unity evoked in me a sense of loss and alienation.”

“If a woman is made to distrust her most basic instinct to protect her newborn child, what feelings can she ever trust?”

“My tiny son and I sobbed our hearts out. . . . After everything I’d worked for, carrying and nurturing Joseph in the womb, having him at home against no small odds, keeping him by my side constantly since birth, nursing him whenever he needed closeness and nourishment-the circumcision was a horrible violation of all I felt we shared. I cried for days afterward.”

“I have never heard such screams. . . . Will I ever know what scars this brings to your soul? . . . What is that new look I see in your eyes? I can see pain, a certain sadness, and a loss of trust.”

“I’ve never even talked about this before-I thought I was the only one who worried about it.”

“I heard him cry during the time they were circumcising him. The thing that is most disturbing to me is that I can still hear his cry. . . . It was an assault on him, and on some level, it was an assault on me. . . . I will go to my grave hearing that horrible wail.”

“The screams of my baby remain embedded in my bones and haunt my mind. . . . His cry sounded like he was being butchered. I lost my milk.”

“I knew that this was a terrible mistake and that it was something that no one, especially newborn babies, should ever have to endure.”

Circumcision is a Women’s Issue

  • The maternal instincts and experiences of women uniquely qualify them for the important responsibility of caring for infants and protecting them from pain and harm.
  • Research demonstrates that women are generally more sensitive than men to the needs and feelings of infants, and newborn infants recognize, prefer, and are more responsive to their mothers.1
  • Generally, because they are not themselves circumcised, females are not subject to the personal psychological motivations of circumcised men to perpetuate the practice (e.g., “I want him to look like me”).2
  • According to a recent study, circumcision can adversely affect female sexual enjoyment.3
  • Any adverse psychological consequences of circumcision on males may adversely affect male-female relationships.4
  • Because of the prevalence of circumcision in the United States, some potential adverse psychological effects of circumcision on males (known/unknown) may have indirect adverse social effects on women.5
  • Mothers sign the majority of hospital circumcision consent forms.6


1. Frodi, A. & Lamb, M., “Sex Differences in Responsiveness to Infants: A Developmental Study of Psychophysical and Behavioral Responses,” Child Development 49 (1978): 1182-8; Bushnell, I., Sai, F., & Mullin, J., “Neonatal Recognition of the Mother’s Face,” British Journal of Developmental Psychology 7 (1989): 3-15; DeCasper, A., & Fifer, W. “Of Human Bonding: Newborns Prefer Their Mothers’ Voices,” Science 208 (1980): 1174-1176.
2. Goldman, R. Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma. Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1997, 43-45.
3. O’Hara, K & O’Hara, J., “The Effect of Male Circumcision on the Sexual Enjoyment of the Female Partner,” BJU International 83 Suppl. 1 (1999): 79-84.
4. Goldman, R. Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma. Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1997, 124-148.
5. Goldman, R. Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma. Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1997, 151-171.
6. Bean, G. & Egelhoff, C., “Neonatal Circumcision: When is the Decision Made?” Journal of Family Practice 18 (1984): 883-887.