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March 10, 2006



Tell Kendall that at your ages the chances of having a GIRL are higher anyway.
If it helps any I was a week shy of 39 and my husband was nearly 48 when our Rebecca was born ( she was our fourth living child and her siblings are all quite a bit older)
Jonathan and Joel are uncircumsised and don't "match" their father, we are not Jewish though so that was never a religious decision.

never too old!!!

Oy Vey! Every Bris I have ever been to seemed like a very barbaric moment in time to me...and like your mother, Danny..I have had to turn away 'feeling' for the little baby that just got tortured without anesthesia...I'm with Kendall on this one...Even though I truly do respect the religeous tradition of it...Can't they at least give the baby a little swig of vodka??? (Just kidding...I'm not sure that the trauma of alcocol is any less horrible than that knife they use....or the possiblity of a future drunk!) It seems that part of this ritual IS the baby recieving this assault without benefit of pain killer! I don't think that is fair to this poor unsuspecting little tiny person who is incredibly sensitive....just not fair at all.

My son will be 33 years old this year, but I still remember vividly - as if it was happening right now - how he clung to my breast sobbing as he drank searching for comfort in the milk of my human kindness directly after his circumcision. I sobbed with him for the pain I had caused him.

Many years later when I took a course in bioenergetics with Rafi Rosen in Israel, I remember him describing how the pain of circumcision affected people physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives.

These are such deeply, personal experiences that truly affect my bias about his. If I was to have a son now I would probably not do the brit thingy!

Why are so many of the anti-circumcision activists women? I don't know any men who regret being circumsized. If people want to be traumatized by the experience decades afterward, perhaps they should look into the sources of their hypersensitivty instead.

All four of my sons are circumcised-- none ritually -- and all four were baptized in childhood too.

I've had one experience in my life when I needed to show my certificate of circumcision -- or thought I did. It was when applying for my first passport, in my 20s. You need either an original of your brth certificate, a certificate of baptism, or a certificate of circumcision. Well, being in NYC where they don't supply such things, I didn't have my original birth certificate, only a photocopy. So I shamefacedly brought my certificate of circumcision, all inscribed in big black Hebrew lettters, to the passport office, where the officer smirkingly told me I didn't need it -- could have brought the birth certificate -- NYC was the only jurisdiction in the country for which photocopies were admissible.

Great post, Danny, including the descriptions of food and of relatives, and the cinema-verite presentation.

Interesting point, Richard, and so true in my experience—everyone I know who is "against" circumcision is female, and I've never met a male who regretted it. But my "anticirc" (a term they use) friends would say that I'm brainwashed and that I was permanently traumatized even though I can't remember it. All of this is said with great respect to the mothers who hated seeing their sons go through such a procedure, especially in a ritualistic bris. I really do empathize but I still have every intention of doing it.

This morning I ran across a blog that was all about how circumcised men can RESTORE their foreskin. One guy in Pittsburgh describes how he used surgical tape, paper, and a suspender belt every day for two years to slowly restore the foreskin to his penis. Ouch. Thank God there were no pictures. Following the links, I discovered a whole world out there of people who think RIC (routine infant circumcision) can never be morally justified. Oy.

I can just imagine the crazy web searches that are going to lead to this post.

I know someone that had a circumcision as an adult, as part of his conversion to Judaism. How's that for dedication? (Tell Kendall to thank goodness her conversion didn't include that little detail!)
Great post Danny.

For me, the idea of NOT circumcising my son was just a plain old "shonda". I'm with you.

Thank you so much, Danny, for writing such a moving piece on brit milah. I wish I had been at your brit, the food sounds wonderful and the company delightful. Of couse, I would have been 7 years old so maybe the company wouldn't have interested me that much!

I attend the brits of my friend sons often. I've never seen anything other than the most respectful care of the baby, and very little in the way of tears (except from the parents). My own son, of course has been circ'ed as well. It was done by a mohel who is also a gynacologist (think about that for a second!) who did a fabulous job and was modern for a Modern O simcha. I've never once regretted it, mostly because as you know, my son will be able to marry within the faith, but a boy who has not been circ'ed will have to undergo the ritual pinprick as an adult before marrying within the faith. And to tell you the truth, I highly doubt that the vast majority of Jewish women would even consider having sex with an intact man. There is NO WAY that I would even think about it. It's totally gross to me. I've only seen one intact penis and it looked like someone left a turtle neck on it. Not pleasant at all.

Because you live in CA, you're going to meet a lot more of the anti-circ crowd. They all seem to gravitate to CA for some reason. But the truth is, if your possible son weren't circ'ed and moved about the country, he would have a very hard time finding any woman within the faith to look twice at him if he remained intact. So you MIGHT want to let your wife know that by not circ'ing him, she's either pushing him to marry outside the faith or to remain sexually inactive his entire life. Me, I'd choose the brit.

Hey Danny...I had to come back and read the discussion....To clarify: I'm not against circumcision. I'm against the pain of it! Give the little one SOMETHING to ease that horrible pain, please!!! But it sounds like part of 'The Ritual' is the pain part...that is what I find unbearable...not the actual end result. (If you'll excuse the expression...)It sounds like one more thing that seperates men and women, doesn't it? And that guy that weas trying to coax or train his forskin back down...Help Me Oh Nurse!

Wow! What a great post. I feel like I just traveled in a time machine back to 1959. I love your detailed and loving descriptions of your family.
I'm not Jewish, but I allowed my son to be circumcized at the hospital. I don't think either of us was traumatized by the experience. He looks like most of the boys he knows and all of the men in his family. That seems important to me.
I can't help thinking of the remnant of your family that left Poland ahead of the death squads and how they would feel about you severing this important connection you have to them going back 1000s of years. Also, since you are a man and the hypothethical baby in question is also male, I think your opinion should count a little bit more in this case.
Well, I hope you and Kendall have a baby and who knows, maybe you will have a girl and it won't a problem. Good to talk it over now though.

Danny, every time I read one of your wonderful posts, I am filled with regret that I did not meet your mother. How I wish she could have held off dying until we formed a friendship. We would have made great pals -- kvelling and kvetching about our children -- but also sharing what it feels like to be women our age. Next time you communicate with her, give her my love.

My best friend was fretting over this very issue, Danny. Her husband, who is Jewish but not practicing, was also insistant that their soon-to-be-born child be circumcised (but in the hospital, not at a bris). Eileen is firmly in the anti-circumcision camp. Fortunately, they had an ultrasound last week and they're having another little girl, so they don't need to worry about it anymore, but just like you and Kendall, it's amazing that a couple can have such compatible theories of child-rearing and then come to blows over this one. Eh, it's a piece of skin. If the choice was left totally up to me, I wouldn't opt for it, but if the boy's father was adamant, I think that I would relent. I am quite sure that my brother and father were not traumatized by it.

I really enjoyed this post..My first born, Jesse, was supposed to have his bris on a Shabbos. I decided to put it off one day so we could get the highly revered Rabbi from Ellenville,NY. to do it...maybe that's why it's done in the middle of the night? Anyway, I thought of it as simply the Jewish man's ritual, so I managed to avoid looking at the procedure. Yet I have a photo of my dad looking horrified as he watched his grandson's procedure. You must have been given wine..I know my son was given several sips of wine before the procedure. I doubt if your Uncle Paul would remember if you had wine.. but maybe he got to share some too. I feel privileged to have met your Mom and your grandparents when I visited Chicago for a Shabbos dinner, and enjoy reading about your childhood.

Tell Kendall that one of the implicit (and unverifiable) benefits of male circumcision is that the male, traumatized from an early age, is easy to dominate.

But seriously.

There is no membership in any heredity, no participation in any tribe or gathering, that is without its irrational scarring. I suppose Judaism is no different.

Our march toward removing all pain from life will have the effect, one day, of removing all meaning.

Your usual wonderful, evocative post.

I have 3 children, 2 sons who are no worse for wear for having been cirumcised; of course, there's no question in our family that they would be.

Yes, they cried during the bris, and as a mother it was a mournful cry to hear, but truthfully it was no different than the middle-of-the-night wailing that went on for feedings and diaper changes in those early days. Because they are exposed suddenly to cool air as the mohel does his thing, I'm told that's why they cry. The wine acts as a wonderful soother after...and we are then on the road to making our sons know what being a "schicker"/drunk is all about.

Just a cutesie personal story to relay. It is mandatory perhaps to bury the clipped skin, the "orla." The mohel is supposed to take it away and do that task. Our mohel, also my husband's doctor and a friend, gave us the orla at my husband's request. We ourselves buried a household RUBBER PLANT. How apropos...a rubber plant, a foreskin -- I figured the plant might produce condoms after an extended period of time!

Perhaps they should have a cutoff (pun intended) age for mohalim. Or at least a specially-designed annual physical to prove their fitness for the profession. Other than that, any doctor will tell you that a mohel does it better than most surgeons. And by the way, I wouldn't scoff at the profession either. They do VERY well!!!

You go...guy! Stick to your guns, er, so to speak.

I've always found the anti-circ movement to be overtly anti-Semitic. They are attacking Judaism at its most fundamental level. Health and sexual issues aside (and by the way, there are plenty of guys out there who would do much better in bed if they were a tad less sensitive), the main purpose to circumcision is religion. Like kashrut and the sabbath, we do it primarily because God told us to. Yeah, it's not such a bad idea anyway, but come on, who would have thought of this on their own?

Still, I did find that when it came to my own sons' circumcisions, I got very squeamish. The thought of taking a knife to a perfectly formed child filled me with dread. Almost the same feeling I had when I went in for laser eye surgery (why am I letting this guy cut me??)

But it is one of the ways we define ourselves as a people, and by and large, as a people, we have turned out pretty well. So don't mess with it.

BTW the best (and as far as I know one of the only) portrayals of a moil is in Seinfeld.

This post has gotten more comments than any other post you've written this year. I know you love getting comments, so clearly you must write about penises more often. Duh.

Circumcision, the unkindest cut

By DR. GIFFORD-JONES -- Special to C-Health

• More columns by Dr. Gifford Jones
When I researched this column on circumcision, my initial reaction was "wow." I thought the topic would be as easy to write about as rolling off a log, but it took hours. I hadn't realized the male foreskin had triggered so many medical articles and so much controversy. Now I'm convinced that most families make a decision on circumcision without knowing much about this procedure. The question is, has male circumcision increased the sale of Viagra?

For some families the decision is easy. They believe circumcision should be performed for religious reasons. But if that's not the case, what should you do? A good start is a lesson on anatomy and its sexual implications.

First, the foreskin doesn't cover just a small surface of the penis. The skin removed by circumcision measures from three to five inches in length. That's about half of the total skin of the penis. Besides, inside the foreskin, there's a band of tissue that moves in and out like an accordion. This gliding motion triggers sexual reflexes and contributes to sexual pleasure.

So shouldn't sensible babies cry out to parents, "You had better think twice before removing such a significant portion of my anatomy. And have you ever considered how this will affect my sex life?" Some might even add in these litigating times, "do it and I'll sue you for a million."

Due to the recent research of Dr. John Taylor, male babies now have even greater grounds for being upset. Taylor is a retired pathologist in Winnipeg, Man. In 1996, he and his colleagues published a report describing anatomically 21 foreskins in the British Journal Of Urology.

In effect, Taylor claimed medical textbooks of anatomy have neglected the foreskin for hundreds of years. In Gray's Anatomy, the bible of anatomy, there's just one sentence about the foreskin. But Taylor and his colleagues found a "ridged band," 1.25 centimetres (half an inch) in width, that runs around the inside tip of the foreskin never before mentioned.

A detailed microscopic examination of the foreskin revealed it's not merely a piece of skin. Rather, it's loaded with blood vessels and nerves. Remove it and you also amputate a large part of the sexual portion of the penis. That in itself should warrant a class action suit by millions of males!

Erectile dysfunction (ER) is due to several causes. But I wonder how much Viagra is being sold today because of too much snipping of the foreskin?

Not only is my son circumcised, the mitzvah, the commandment, is obligatory on the father. The Mohel acts as the father's agent. Once the Mohel had everything set up with the traditional v-shaped clamp, he handed me the mohel messer and I did the cut myself.

There's a verse in the Torah that I'm too lazy to look up the verse citation for that talks about one of the Temple's sacrifices and its blood. The phrase "through the blood you shall live" is repeated. The commentaries say the repitition is a reference to dam mila, the blood of circumcision. It wasn't until I mahled my son that I realized just how bloody the procedure is.

He cried until they made kiddush and stuck the wine soaked gauze in his mouth. Other than that, the only discomfort he seemed to show was a day later when the Mohel used a probe to make sure there were no adhesions.

BTW, between his birth and the bris we were changing his diaper and his mom said, "It looks so funny!". So I told her, "It's not like I have any experience with uncircumcised penises myself."

Danny, Dean Esmay has gotten almost hysterical on this subject and plans to pursue foreskin restoration. Here.

Noah Wolf is still performing Brit Milah? No way. I'm 33 and he did mine! And he was old then! Seriously, the old joke about the set of suitcases totally holds for him! He's a legendary snipper- truly a 'cut' above the rest!

Shmavis, I just read an article congratulating Noah Wolff on his 55th year as a mohel. Oy! He was a fairly young whippersnapper when he performed mine in 1959.

Amba, Esmay is sure rabid on the topic. But like many anti-circ hysterics, any valid points he may make (and there were one or two among the hyperbole) get lost as soon as he starts telling commenters who question his statistics to f*ck off. The most horrifying element of this to me is the new push for "foreskin restoration." That process sounds WAY worse than the original circumcision and I don't get how it's supposed to bring back the sensation they claim is lost since it's not really foreskin that's being restored. It sounds like a big scam on par with the "vaginal rejuvenation" craze that's sweeping Beverly Hills. I guess some people just aren't happy unless they're finding more parts of their bodies to fix.

Great post Danny.... you should gather up all these posts, submit to a Yiddish publisher and publish a memoir so as not to lose your own piece of jewish history. FYI we did circ our 3 sons and hubby is very much the granola type, and not Jewish. We don't vaccinate any more (something I still struggle with) but there was never much discussion about circ.... there is a lot to be said about having your boy look like dad.

My son was circumsized by a mohel in our home 8 days after the birth - my 80+ year old grandparents were there from Delray Beach lol - it was very much expected and i never considered otherwise - my husband is not jewish and did not convert but had been circumsized in the hospital and respected how important this was to me for religious and cultural reasons - that said, as a mother - i had to have my sister in law physically pull my face from looking at my son and when he cried, yes, it killed me but i knew that, as you said, this was one more male in an unbroken chain going back for thousands of years - i knew he would be okay - to me there was never a question but that's just what worked for us..

You know, I wonder about the humor aspect of it. Not long ago I saw 'Hostel,' an incredibly lame horror movie, yes, but one that also happened to contain a few foreskin jokes. The filmmaker has the surname Roth, a not uncommon Jewish name, so I will guess that he is Jewish; and the film was set in Europe, where males are rarely circumcised. (In the film, the two American kids are razzing their European travelling companion about his foreskin.) I can't remember the jokes, but they reminded me that the only people who ever make foreskin jokes are guys who don't have one. I've never heard a guy who has a foreskin make circumcision jokes, for example. And that's because we (intact men) simply don't care; to us, circumcision is a non-issue; it's not even on our radar. (ie: If we didn't want our foreskin, hey, we'd go and get circumcised. Easy squeezy. End of story.)

But the point I wish to make is this: Much of our humor is based in our own neurosis, whether we know/admit it or not. So I wonder if circumcised men crack wise as a kind of subconscious defense mechanism; a way of reassuring themselves that "everything is okay" and that they are "not missing out" on anything. Unfortunately, this line of humor can cross a line and we have the foreskin demonized as dirty, unsightly, etc. (Of course, do we really think that a circumcised penis that is unwashed -- after, let's say, a few hours in the gym -- is going to smell NICE? I mean, really. Cut or uncut, dirty is dirty; you are a person who washes regularly or you or not. A tiny piece of skin does not make a difference.)

Anyway, as more research is published, it looks like the humor may only increase. Because -- surprise! -- it has long been common medical knowledge that the foreskin is brimming with nerve-endings; it's as sensitve (if not more so) as the skin on the shaft of the penis. And yes, sexually speaking (sorry, cut guys) this little bit of skin gives mindnumbingly pleasureable sensations. This is a fact. And besides, ask a thousand intact men if they would want their foreskin cut off and you would hear a resounding "NO!" Followed, no doubt, by a "What are you, crazy?")

But do you know what? As an intact guy, I say that is best; but had I been circumcised as an infant, I would likely say that THAT is best. That's just the way human beings are; that's how we think. My way or the highway. Although, if intact men do have one advantage over guys that are cut, it's that at least we have the choice of being cut or uncut; whereas circumcised men don't have that luxury. And that, I guess, is no joke.

Enjoyed reading many articles, and wanted to just say something here. I applaud your conviction. The bris is bond.

Rambam (Maimonides) and probably others, in an attempt to explain the bris to rational folks in the Guide to the Perplexed discusses that the reason we cut off the foreskin is BECAUSE of the great sensitivity of the area. It helps men control their sexuality, to control their base impulses, says the Rambam, to have the bris performed.

When having trouble getting pregnant I have a few rabbinical suggestions: Have a guest stay over at your home for a night or few days, give money to tzedakah and pray. (Pray before marital relations, while clothed.)

Hope this helps.


"The issue is circumcision, the surgical removal of the skin that covers the tip of the penis. Kendall has a circle of organic, recycling, compost-turning friends who tend to decry the abomination inflicted on innocent Jewish babies the world over."

Second sentence about the main subject and already ad-hominem arguments towards circumcision opponents ?

Usually, this kind of arguments just means you have no more to say, and what follows is either yelling or general purpose parental/traditionnal beliefs.

Let's see that :
- "well-meaning cohorts ... against circumcision", "hysterical claims", "propaganda" for the yelling part.
- "covenant of Abraham and Isaac" and numerous details and explanations about jewish traditions - and mainly your own circumsision - for the beliefs part.

Yet, the end was a total surprise to me :

"Kendall converted to Judaism two years ago, and like most converts, is very respectful of our ancient rituals. Every time she suggests that our future child not be circumcised I threaten to call our rabbi and have her conversion papers revoked. The more she expresses her doubts about the practice, the more obnoxious I get, surprising even myself with my strong feelings on the subject. What is with me? Maybe I’m afraid that if I stop and listen to her concerns I’ll start thinking twice about it myself. In a way it’s a relief to be so unwilling to budge about an issue, especially since so many other aspects of having a child seem part of a vast and terrifying unknown."

So, maybe after all you learnt something from intactivist "propaganda" and Kendall's "well-meaning cohorts"...

By the way, I'm a 41 yo male, circumcised, and I wish I never were. Because this medical procedure, performed when I was 3 without analgesia, had long lasting psychological effects on me. And because during the last few years, I experienced an unexplained growing lack of sensibility down there. To regain sensations, I had to restore a foreskin (long boring procedure, but it worked).

I suppose this makes me one of these hysterical propagandists, for most of you. ...Not a problem to me...

Does anyone have information about the families Hyman Akin/Leibich Simcovitch originated from Staszow Poland.

Hygiene ? Please :)

Cotton swabs and urinary tract infections aren't really an issue, showers will work just fine.

The whole design of a penis is made to work well WITH a foreskin, and if you had one you would find that it can be removed without problems for any cleaning, and also does a great job of preserving proper sensitivity in places that matter.

Imagine how sensitive your tongue would be in a few years if, instead of keeping it in your mouth, you'd be constantly licking dry clothes.

I imagine if any god really wanted penises to be like that, then that would be the default setting, it wouldn't require surgery to get there :)

Disgusting kikes, I hope you all fucking rot in hell.

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