Challenging the Circumcision Myth

Excerpt: A movement to ban – or at least question – circumcision includes many Jews.

April 10, 2011 11:25
2 minute read.
A brit mila in France.

brit mila_521. (photo credit: SERGE ATTAL / FLASH90)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


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.

To read the full article, click here.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content