THE BLOG

The Tipping Point: A Jewish Mother Questions Circumcision

06/04/2012 12:27 pm ET | Updated Aug 04, 2012

I was recovering in the hospital after the birth of my son when I learned that the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer endorsed routine neonatal circumcision. While my family buzzed excitedly with plans for the bris, a hospital pamphlet encouraged me to make "an
educated decision," presenting me with reasons to opt out of the pending procedure (on my unknowing son's behalf, of course).

But "educated" or not, I knew that I had no choice. As a Jew, no matter who endorsed or didn't endorse circumcision, my son was going to enter the covenant of Abraham by marking the eighth day of his life with the celebratory removal of his foreskin. Though I was not immune to the speculation that circumcision could possibly be harmful to my baby -- potentially ridding him of precious antibacterial proteins and erogenous sensitivity -- I felt deeply that G-d was looking out for my son's reproductive organ.

Indeed, eight days later, my son followed 2,000 years of Jewish tradition and bid his foreskin adieu.

However, I, his Jewish mother, silently followed the circumcision debate. Having been introduced to the questions, I was now curious: Could there really be a reasonable argument against Judaism's earliest ritual? I read the studies, perused "Mothers Against Circumcision" sites and learned about the growing number of parents opting out of circumcision.

But I quickly became lost. No matter how hard I tried in collecting facts, there seemed to be no real consensus among pediatricians and surgeons. While the AAP no longer endorsed circumcision, they certainly didn't condemn it. Furthermore, I was forced to rule out the voice of anti-circumcision campaigners, an outcry consistently based solely on being disgusted by the circumcision procedure itself, citing possible complications that pediatricians all agree are rare. The only solid piece of information, of little importance to me and my family, was that circumcision was successful in curbing the spread of AIDS in men in Africa.

Then one day, I was flipping through the most beloved motherhood manual, "What to Expect: The First Year," when a simple reminder changed the course of my queries. In her opening to the section on circumcision, Heidi Murkoff writes, "Circumcision is probably the oldest medical procedure still performed." That straightforward fact hit me like a thousand bricks of "duh."

Why was I acting lost on the matter? A Jew questioning circumcision! I suddenly felt ridiculous (and a little guilty) for being so concerned with what everyone else had to say about circumcision, when it was an unchallenged fact for my father and his father and his father ... all the way back to the original commandment. While the world was easily throwing a question at the extra foreskin with all its inconclusive studies and articles, Judaism was confidently calling the Mohel.

My realization about circumcision's history ended my search with the one authority I began with: my own faith was the only clear voice on this below-the-belt matter. Now I have returned to researching more consequential things, wishing G-d's voice would also ring out about whether or not to buy a Bugaboo stroller or his take on the perilous war on child vaccinations.

Though I have swiftly cut off my questioning on foreskin, articles addressing circumcision still beg my read. Most recently, a study showed that most parents feel it's important to have their boys resemble daddy -- if the father is circumcised, the son should follow suit. Now that sounds just like what my Jewish brethren have been doing all along -- all the way back to our father Abraham.