Jewish foes of circumcision sit out attempts to ban it

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(RNS) Though national and local Jewish groups have strongly condemned San Francisco’s proposed ban on infant circumcision, a small but vocal movement of Jews is trying to convince more of their own to abandon the practice. What they won’t do, however, is join the San Francisco push to outlaw the practice in their pursuit of […]

  • Not all Jewish people opposed to circumcision have been measured on the proposed San Francisco initiative.

    Performer Jason Paige, who is currently the front-man for the group Blood, Sweat & Tears, is Jewish and has just come out in strong support of the ban, stating: “I’m totally for it. San Francisco has often lead the country in elevating our consciousness. It has already helped spread awareness of this human rights crime to other states and hopefully will lead people everywhere to be more compassionate, thoughtful and rational not only towards their own fragile newborn children but to other fellow men and women as well.”

    Jewish filmmaker Eli Ungar-Sargon has stated in the Jewish Daily Forward: “One of the state’s primary responsibilities is to protect its citizens. And by allowing parents to permanently alter the bodies of their children, the state is failing to protect its most vulnerable citizens from bodily harm. It seems reasonable to draw a legal line when it comes to body modifications that have life-long consequences.”

    For more on the Jewish opposition to circumcision, please visit the Beyond the Bris project.

  • For as much as I hope that one day the practice of circumcision is abandoned, I think a ban is a bad idea. I think the fact that it’s on the ballot is good; it’s getting people talking about a once-taboo subject. However, deep down, I know I want it to fail. This country is not yet ready for a ban.

    There is so much misinformation regarding pediatric care that circumcisions would still be performed because American doctors would use any and every reason to indicate circumcision. All doctors ever learn in school about the foreskin is that it must be cut off. Doctors dispense the misinformation that a parent must forcefully rip back the foreskin from its glans for “cleaning.” The area gets infected, and guess what, the child needs surgery.

    And what’s to stop renegade doctors and mohels from mutilating children anyway? Would cops actually arrest these people? Who would risk being labeled a Nazi for arresting a mohel? What state department would issue the fine?

    No. This country is not ready for a ban. As intactivists, there is still much education work to do.

  • I’m going to take this opportunity to ask the question I always ask wherever I go. Nobody seems to be able to give me a straight answer.

    The foreskin is not a birth defect. Nor is it a deformity or congenital anomaly like a cleft or a sixth finger. The foreskin is normal, healthy tissue with which each male human baby is born with. The foreskin is not just “a flap of skin.” The foreskin is an intrinsic part of the penis laden with nerves and blood vessels. Unless there is a medical indication, a disease or medical condition present that can’t be cured any other way, circumcision is the deliberate destruction of normal, healthy tissue.

    Without any medical or clinical indication whatsoever, can a doctor be performing surgery on a healthy, non-consenting individual, much less be giving parents any kind of a “choice?”

    In stoking a parent’s sense of entitlement to get them to sign a consent form for elective, non-medical surgery, isn’t a doctor engaging in charlatanism? In reaping profit from performing surgery on healthy, non-consenting individuals, is he not committing medical fraud? And, because he is taking advantage of parental naivete and ultimately the defenseless healthy child, is he not engaging in professional abuse?

  • eshu21

    As a Jew, I am in favor of the ban; whether it succeeds this time or not, the dam has burst and people’s awareness of this human-rights violation is spreading. If the ban passes – great! If it fails, it will be seen as the first attempt to treat male babies with a semblance of humanity and equality; remember, twenty years ago the concept of gay marriage was seen as “overreaching”, misguided and in bad taste, almost a joke (and evil and anti-religious as well). Now look how far we have come as a country on that issue. Hopefully, male circumcision will soon be as dead as the dodo, and this bill may be seen as the initial spark that led to that welcome change, a change for the better. A change for a greater humanity.

  • Congratulations on a well balanced article about circumcision. However, Rabbi Julie Pelc Adler is completely innacurate when she claims that “There is no evidence of significant pain.” Numerous medical studies of infant circumcision have revealed significant physiologic findings indicative of massive pain. These effects include: increased serum corticosteroid levels and elevated blood pressure. Rather than “falling asleep” as some claim, these infants are going into a state of withdrawal and shock, similar to that seen in post-traumatic stress syndrome. Rabbi Adler also wrongly claims that the complication rate is “miniscule”. Each year more than 100 babies die in the United States as a direct complication of circumcision. This fact is often hidden on death certificates which may list Overwhelming Infection or Blood Loss as the cause of death.

  • Are basic human rights subject to opinions, or should they be held as absolutes?

    Infant circumcision is a blatant violation of human rights. It is a violation of one’s body integrity; it is extremely painful; it causes life-long harm to appearance and sexual health; and it brands the child as belonging to a religious group without his consent — so much for “freedom of belief” when you’re imposing your beliefs onto a child’s body with a knife, eh?

    Therefore, infant circumcision must be outlawed, outright, without concern for anyone’s contrary opinions or sentiments.