of male infants is not universal among American Jews. Some Jews in
South America, Europe, and Israel also do not circumcise. For
example, the circumcision rate among Swedish Jews is reported to be
2. Jewish circumcision is a growing topic of
debate in the Jewish community and has been questioned in dozens of
articles appearing in such publications as Moment, Tikkun, Jewish
News, Forward, Jewish Advocate, Jewish Monthly, Jerusalem Post,
Jewish Journal, and Jewish Times. Two Israeli
organizations publicly oppose circumcision (Israeli Association
Against Genital Mutilation and Kahal Group).
circumcision has been challenged in earlier times. In the
Hellenistic period (300 B.C.-100 A.D.) some Jews chose not to
circumcise their sons. In the 1840s during the Reform movement in
Germany, circumcision was opposed by Jewish parents, physicians, and
4. Originally only the tip of the foreskin was cut,
called milah. This practice lasted about 2000 years. During the
Hellenistic period, many young Jews concealed their circumcision by
drawing their foreskins forward. The rabbis of the time decided to
change the requirements of the procedure so that a circumcised male
could not possibly be altered to appear uncircumcised. This was the
start of periah, removing the entire foreskin.
According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, "any child born of a
Jewish mother is a Jew, whether circumcised or not." This
restrictive definition is based on Orthodox belief. Other Jews
recognize that one can be Jewish based on the status of either
parent and, of course, conversion.
6. The biggest threat to
Jewish survival is assimilation. There is no evidence that
circumcision slows it. Despite circumcision, about half of all Jews
who married in recent years chose a non-Jewish spouse.
religious origin of Jewish circumcision is in the Torah. It says
that God told Abraham "every male among you shall be circumcised"
(Gen. 17) as part of a covenant between God and the Jewish people.
However, most Jews are unaware of this origin, and in a survey of
American Jews, the large majority (87%) do not believe that the
Torah is the actual word of God.
8. In actual practice, many
Jews circumcise because of cultural conformity, not religious
reasons. Based on a national survey of American Jews, "90 percent
define being Jewish as being a member of a cultural or ethnic
group." Most circumcisions of male infants of American Jewish
parents are done in hospitals without any religious
9. Jewish circumcision has never had anything to do
with health concerns.
10. Jewish law acknowledges the remote
possibility of death resulting from the surgery and allows for
exemptions when other children in the family have died from the
effects of circumcision.
11. Ritual circumcisers (mohelim)
usually use the same clamp devices as doctors. In fact, training
programs for Reform and Conservative mohelim require a valid medical
license for certification. Consequently, there is little reason to
believe that circumcisions performed by mohelim are less painful for
12. Some Jewish parents who have observed their
son's circumcision have described it as extremely distressing for
them and have regretted their decision for years.
Maimonides, the renowned physician, philosopher, and rabbi, wrote,
"Circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement, and sometimes
lessens the natural enjoyment." Contemporary research, and reports
from men circumcised as adults, confirm this.
Circumcision is inconsistent with significant Jewish laws and
values. For example, the human body must not be altered or marked.
The Torah also prohibits the causing of pain to any living creature.
Since circumcision causes extreme pain, some Jews believe that
circumcision is not ethical. Jewish values place ethical behavior
15. For those who want a ritual, a growing
number are turning to alternative equivalent rituals for male and
female infants. This is consistent with reforming Judaism to be more
16. Jewish boys who are not circumcised are
accepted by others and have had bar mitzvahs.
© Jewish Circumcision Resource Center. All