IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 6/21/11
Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.
A Message to Jewish Americans on
The Jewish Circumcision Resource Center,
an educational organization in Boston that is connected with the Circumcision Resource Center, released a statement
on circumcision intended for Jewish Americans. The statement,
which is signed by a Statement Task Force of Jews who are
actively involved in the issue, raises questions about
Jewish circumcision and encourages Jews to engage in critical
thinking about the practice.
"We want Jews to know that in this country and abroad, some
Jews do not circumcise their sons. Circumcision is a choice, and now
that we know the serious harm caused by circumcision, there
are strong reasons to forgo it," said Ronald Goldman,
Ph.D., Executive Director. Dr. Goldman is the author of Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish
Perspective, endorsed by five rabbis.
Dr. Goldman also suggests that Jews think about the
ethics of causing significant pain and cutting off a
natural, healthy body part that has important functions. "There are
psychological effects of circumcision, too. Some Jewish men are
very dissatisfied, angry, or distressed about being
circumcised," said Dr. Goldman.
The Center's statement also seeks to assure Jews that as the
subject of circumcision gets more critical attention from Jews and
others, the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center will reject any
statement or action from circumcision opponents that may be
disrespectful or insensitive to Jews and others.
The Center's primary intended audience is those Jews who
generally evaluate an idea not solely based on its conformance with
the Torah, but also in light of its agreement with reason and
experience. For those Jews who decide against
circumcision, there are over a dozen rabbis who will lead
an alternative welcoming ceremony for baby boys called a brit
The full text of the statement follows:
Jewish Circumcision Resource Center of Boston supports Jews who
believe that circumcision is unethical and that it is not a
necessity for full engagement in Jewish life. We seek to encourage
critical thinking about circumcision and dispel various cultural
misunderstandings about the practice.
We have learned much from Jewish Americans who have
contributed books, films, and research to raise awareness about the
history of circumcision in this country, about foreskin anatomy and
physiology, and about the serious harm caused by foreskin removal.
Consequently, a growing number of Jews in the U.S., South America,
Europe, and Israel are making the decision not to circumcise their
Our essential message is that all Jews do have a
choice; we can be fully identified and affiliated as Jews, and fully
engaged spiritually in a Jewish context, without circumcising our
infants. Some families have chosen brit shalom, a beautiful
welcoming ceremony for infant boys and girls without genital
cutting. We acknowledge the profound place that circumcision has in
Jewish tradition and practice. However, we are compelled to question
genital cutting out of deep caring and compassion for all infants
Unfortunately, there may be statements and tactics
by individuals opposed to circumcision that are insensitive and even
offensive to many Jews. We regret this and absolutely reject all
statements or actions, often based on ignorance, that are
disrespectful of any religion or ethnic group.
Our core principles are simple and unambiguous:
infants are people; their bodies belong to them alone. Every person
should have the right to make an informed decision about the removal
or alteration of any normal, healthy, functioning body part when he
or she is older. We advocate preservation of normal, healthy,
functioning body parts for all infants and children, male and
female, regardless of the culture, religion, or personal beliefs of
parents or other adults.
While it may make Jews uncomfortable to question
circumcision, the general silence around circumcision leaves some
Jews with continuing intellectual, emotional, ethical, and spiritual
conflicts about the practice. Some mothers reveal great distress
about permitting and watching the circumcision of their sons. Recent
information supports their feelings. Studies show that infants
experience significant pain and trauma during and after circumcision
(lack of crying indicates trauma-induced withdrawal), and behavioral
and neurological changes in infants have been observed.
Some dissatisfied men report wide-ranging physical,
sexual, and psychological consequences of circumcision, partly
because the foreskin has significant physiological and sexual
functions. These crucial facts, along with frequently ignored issues
such as the various surgical risks of circumcision and its
disrupting effects on the mother-infant bond, are changing many
Jewish Americans' attitudes toward circumcision.
We ask that our fellow Jewish Americans, whatever
their beliefs and attitudes regarding other Jewish traditions, join
us in asking these questions: Has removal of infant foreskins really
promoted commitment to Jewish identity in America? Are there not
other less problematic and potentially much more effective
approaches to ensuring that our children, male and female, will grow
up to become proud contributing participants in Jewish life in
Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.
Executive Director of the Jewish
Circumcision Resource Center
Author of Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish
Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma
STATEMENT TASK FORCE
Leonard B. Glick, M.D., Ph.D.
Author of Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient
Judea to Modern America
Lisa Braver Moss
Author of The
Measure of His Grief
Writer specializing in health,
family, and parenting issues
Author of Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective
"Circumcision: Identity, Gender, and Power"
Mark Reiss, M.D.
Executive Vice President of Doctors Opposing
Creator and administrator of Celebrants of Brit Shalom
Rebecca Wald, J.D.
Founder of the Beyond the Bris project
Tina Kimmel, PhD, MSW, MPH
Maternal Child Health
Moshe Rothenberg, MSW
Certified teacher and social worker,
Brit Shalom ceremony leader
Paul Fleiss, M.D.
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