(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Chief Rabbinate announced on Wednesday that it is launching a service to provide mohels, ritual circumcisers, who will perform circumcisions for free on behalf of parents who cannot afford the customary fee.
In general, mohels do not demand a fee, but it is accepted practice to offer them money for performing the circumcision. The Chief Rabbinate recommends that a mohel approved and licensed by it be paid NIS 1,000 and an expert mohel be given NIS 1,500. These are suggested, not obligatory, prices.
The project is being introduced by the rabbinate’s new B’noam rabbinical association, which has been established to provide religious services to the general public in a more welcoming and approachable manner.
The move comes against a background of several high-profile struggles against the Chief Rabbinate by different groups that have sought to establish alternatives to its services in the fields of marriage, kashrut, and conversion. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said that the new project represents a revolution in the provision of mohels to the public.
“The sages told us that a mitzva that is accepted with happiness and dedication and love is observed and preserved,” said Lau of the circumcision ritual.
“People who are not involved daily in Jewish tradition still adhere to the commandment of circumcision, are closely tied to it and do it happily, although at times they have financial difficulties with it.
“Some people simply do not have the means for circumcision, and therefore we thank the mohels who have joined this program for dedicating their volunteerism and their professional responsibility for the people and for those who are less fortunate,” the chief rabbi added.
Lau said that the B’noam association “is coming to do one significant and important thing: to make religious services more accessible to everyone,” and that it would in time provide more accessible and welcoming services for weddings, bar and bat mitzva celebrations, and other similar religious events.
According to the Chief Rabbinate, 30 mohels have already joined the project and another 40 will shortly be added.
Those who join commit to not requesting a charge, but are allowed to take a monetary gift if the parents of the newborn baby boy offer one. They also commit to being on call generally for circumcisions.
Rabbi and mohel Natan Shterenhel is in charge of coordinating public requests for a mohel, who will be dispatched according to geographic proximity and availability.
Shterenhel noted that many mohels perform their service “out of commitment and dedication to the commandment to circumcise Jewish boys” and do so on a voluntary basis, while gaining income from other sources.
According to Rabbi Seth Farber, director of the independent religious services advisory organization ITIM, most mohels do charge or accept money for their services.