(photo credit: SERGE ATTAL / FLASH90)
AS AN INCREASING NUMBER OF AMERICANS – including a sizable number of American Jews – question the act of male circumcision, a group of San Francisco activists are advocating to ban circumcision, or what they call male genital mutilation. These activists are hoping to acquire 7,168 signatures to get a proposed measure on the November city ballot that would impose a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to one year in jail for someone who performs a circumcision.
Lloyd Schofield, who is leading the signature effort, tells The Jerusalem Report that his group is “on track” for obtaining the required number of signatures by the April 26 deadline for getting a proposition on the November ballot. If they achieve their objective, during the November 1 mayoral contest, San Francisco voters can vote on the measure, which makes it a “misdemeanor to circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18.”
Many of the leading activists against circumcision around the country are Jewish. But not surprisingly, the established Jewish community in the San Francisco Bay Area is furious about the proposed bill. “It is very alienating to Jews in San Francisco to read this proposed language,” says Abby Michelson Porth, associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in the Bay Area. “It appears to be hostile to many Jews. It’s an attempt to infringe upon our rights as individuals and a faith community.”
Male circumcision is commanded in Genesis 17:10-14 as an outward sign of a man’s participation in the Jewish covenant with God. The rite of circumcision, or brit mila, is performed on the eighth day of a boy’s life. “This is a tradition as ancient as the very first Hebrew, even before Sinai. It is a mitzva that perpetuates the Jewish people,” says Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Orthodox spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey, and first vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America.
Schofield is not unaware of the significance of circumcision to the Jewish community. “We considered the wording and possible religious exclusion because we know that circumcision is important to Coptic Christians, Jews and Muslims. But we believe this is harmful to babies,” he says. Opponents of male circumcision believe that circumcision not only inflicts tremendous pain on babies, but also causes psychological damage to men, including feelings of anger, distrust and grief. They believe circumcision hinders full sexual satisfaction since the foreskin that is removed during circumcision includes thousands of sensitive nerve endings.
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