Sunday, March 30, 2008

Putting On The Bris
by: Schvach Yid

One of my favorite topics is up and running, or at least was, in the March 21st edition of The New York Jewish Week. Yesiree jadies and jents, it’s the topic of Jewish circumcision, better known to us members of the Tribe as Brit Milah.

George Robinson reviews a new (?) documentary on this subject by film maker Eliyahu Unger-Sargon titled, ‘Cut: Slicing Through the Myth of Circumcision’ (sorry, the review is not listed on The New York Jewish Week web site).

Here is my very personal admission concerning this ‘controversial’ subject. I’m circumcised. I should know – I was there when it happened (and not by coincidence) although I don’t remember a thing about the event (in that case perhaps I shouldn’t know!). It’s not that I have to ask about the matter to be certain of the fact; it’s just that I should, and do, know.

My circumcision was not a religious ritual, but medical. If I recall correctly, back then the New York City Department of Health (I’m a native New Yorker) required circumcisions of all newborn males. Despite this fact, my mother informed her obstetrician that she wanted me circumcised, and according to my mother’s account, she (that’s right, a female obstetrician in 1953) answered ‘well, I’m not a rabbi, but I’ll do it’. Voilà!

Thanks to my mother’s acceptance of this important mitzvah, I’ve spent my life to date with the ability to sit at a Pesach seder with a clear conscience.

Have I ever been self-conscious about my circumcision? Not at all! I surely wouldn’t want my you-know-what to look like some wűrst in the display case at Schaller & Weber.

Personally, I love being circumcised. It’s one of many facts of my life that lets me know in no uncertain terms that I’m a Jew – of the male variety. Sorry jadies, but you can’t have one – you have nothing to circumcise (and the Aybischter never commanded bris milah for females).

This brings my spiel to the point of the matter. George Robinson’s review reveals that Unger-Sargon’s flick serves, at least in part, as an apologetic. The various introspective and social/political issues seem to have been covered (I haven’t seen this documentary), but less we forget, we Jews should all be reminded that we circumcise our infant sons, hopefully on the child’s eighth day post-partum, in compliance with HaShem’s mitzvah to do so, and not for reasons of health promotion, politics, social confrontation, marital isolation, or any other ‘pc’ concern.

It’s a part of Judaism – we do it because Gd has commanded us to do it.

And I thank my parents, as well as HaShem, for my medical, as opposed to religious, bris. A bissele wine for an eight day old is okay, but in the matter of circumcision, Betadine beats the pants off saliva, every time.

Recently there have appeared in print several Schreie about circumcision. The first, as I recall, was a book written by a Moslem author who suffered through a Moslem circumcision at the prescribed age of thirteen years (in emulation of Ishmail in the Chumash).

Now two Yiddin have deemed appropriate to jump onto the bris-bitch bandwagon. The second of these, who’s publication pre-dates the first, is Shalom Auslander with his book ‘Foreskin’s Lament’; I haven’t read this ditty, but here’s a website by and for the author:; there’s even a video on this site.

Here’s the URL to a review of the book, complete with a brief bio:

Auslander just happens to live in Woodstock, NY, situated just off Route 28 out of Kingston (NYS Thruway exit 19). Woodstock is an old childhood summer haunt of mine; back then, it was the hippie hangout of the Northern Catskills.

What can I say? I’m satisfied.


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