Minnesota Mamaleh: About Circumcision

brody 300x225 Minnesota Mamaleh: About CircumcisionA proposal to ban circumcision will be on the San Francisco ballot this November.

As a Jewish Mama, my response should fall somewhere along the lines of outrage and a head-tisk.

And as a bleeding heart Mama, my response should be somewhere in the range of agreement and an apology to my son.

I whole-heartdely feel all of these emotions. In other words, I’m conflicted.

I don’t agree with the circumcision ban. But you might be surprised why.

Let’s start with the Jewish Mama part of me. Circumcision is mandated in the Jewish religion.

So two years ago, when our son was born, Jason and I barely discussed whether or not he would be circumcised. We delved into the details of when, where, and by whom. But circumcising Brody was a given for us.

When I called various mohels, I was repeatedly told that this would be Brody’s one chance to perform this mitzvah and that Jason and I shouldn’t take it away from him.

And as far as we’re concerned, he’s legit. We didn’t follow every rule and regulation to a “T” (Really, when have we ever?), but Brody is circumcised.

Flipping over to look at the bleeding heart side of me, the arguments against circumcision are compelling.

The reasons start with medical proof that circumcising isn’t necessary for cleanliness and health purposes.

They continue by disproving the “everybody’s doing it” philosophy. As my friend Mary so eloquently puts it, our boys won’t be laughing at each other in the locker room; there’ll be variety in there.

And they go in for the win by comparing circumcision to female mutilation, calling anti-circumcision “advocating for our children,” and naming the movement “leaving my son whole.” These word choices certainly make me second guess myself.

What it really comes down to is this: I don’t regret circumcising Brody and I’m not 100% sure that I would do things differently if we were to have another baby (Which, for the record, we’re not.). What I am embarrassed by is that we barely thought about this decision.

We’re parenting in a different time and place. What has been done in the name of “that’s just the way it is”, doesn’t necessarily have to be a given. And it’s absolutely fabulous.

We’re conscious of our choices and can research the decisions that we make. And our children and families are better off for it.

***

We went to a birthday party this weekend. It was (finally) warm outside so the kids ran around barefoot. As a group of little boys rushed by, I overheard a mom commenting on one little guy’s painted nails.

That’s just so cute! She said.

He’s in his princess phase. Was his mother’s response.

That’s the norm today. Nothing needs to be taken for granted, assumed, or done just because it always has been.

***

So I don’t have a hard and fast rule for whether or not parents should circumcise their sons. What I do know is that it’s a decision that should be thoughtfully made.

And as for the circumcision ban? Well that just falls into the category of non-thinking decision making, doesn’t it?

028 filtered1 150x150 Minnesota Mamaleh: About CircumcisionGalit Breen is an Israeli freezing her tuchus in Minnesota. She’s a Mama of three currently working on her first book about teaching children spirituality outside of religion. You can find her regularly at These Little Waves or here at TCJ on the first Friday of each month.

About Galit Breen

Galit Breen is an Israeli freezing her tuchus in Minnesota. On any given day she can be found juggling her husband, three children, and new puggle. Galit has a degree in Human Development, a Masters in Education, and 10-plus years experience as a classroom teacher. Galit is now a stay-at-home mom, blogger and freelance writer with a serious affinity for challah. And hummus. And challah with hummus. Galit blogs regularly at theselittlewaves.com and writes the monthly Minnesota Mamaleh column right here at TCJ. Contact Galit at [email protected]

Comments. Add Yours!

52 comments

  1. Keven –
    I can appreciate your concern over this issue and the anger you feel towards your parents for your personal “genital mutilation” as you call it.
    Though to be fair, Keven, I feel to share a story of a friend of mine, who felt anger towards his parents for the exact opposite reason that you feel anger towards your own. Because of my friend’s issues with a tear and other foreskin complications that occurred as he developed, he had to receive a circumcision at 21 years old. (Which put him out of work for several weeks, and for which he is still paying the debt.) Most tragically for him though, and specifically because his parents did not have him circumcised as a young child – as their doctor had recommended he should be – he no longer has ANY feeling whatsoever in his penis. You wonder whether or not there are nerves you can no longer feel – my friend knows he cannot feel anything. Though it all could have been prevented with a circumcision as a baby/child – before he could choose for himself.
    Another instance I’ll share with you, Keven: while working in the E.R. my husband saw an intact man come in one evening who tore very badly when having intercourse. He was bleeding so much that he fainted soon after his arrival. I don’t know whether it was suggested he get a circumcision as a fix to the concern, but it was certainly a concern for that man that night.
    While you, Keven, feel angry about being circumcised – there are plenty more who are happy to have been circumcised for the convenience, health benefits, cleanliness, look, family ties, and religious observance that having a circumcision provides for them.
    Even though I share these pro-circumcision stories though, I realize (and did realize before I had my son cut) that the truth is, there are very legitimate pros and cons on both side of this issue. This issue is too complicated to say that only one way is best. The fact that you had a different experience – than say my happily circumcised husband or my previously uncut friend tells me that this decision is best made by a thoughtful parent (s), with their doctor, and if applicable – their religious leader. Because the truth is, that choosing to not have your son circumcised is as much an active decision as choosing to have your son circumcised is one. If a boy is left intact as a baby, it is extremely more expensive, painful, and risky for him to choose to undergo the procedure for himself as an adult.
    Keven, I respect your choice to have left your sons intact. That is as much as health, social, cosmetic, cultural, religious, emotional issue to you as my decision to have my son cut was to me. For the reasons that there are a variety of experiences – both positive and negative – on both sides of this issue tell me that this is clearly a decision where choices should not be taken out of parents’ hands.