Jewish "intactivists" in U.S. stop circumcising

I think that some of these people have some serious issues. I have never once felt cheated, upset or irritated at all about my own bris. I couldn’t have been prouder than at my son’s brit milah.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – In most respects, Michelle Chernikoff Anderson is a rabbi’s dream congregant. She sings in the choir and takes classes at her synagogue.

But, like an increasing number of Jews in the United States, she has decided not to circumcise her son, rejecting the traditional notion that it is a Biblically prescribed sign of the Jewish relationship with God.

“I see circumcision as a blood ritual that I can let go of,” said Anderson, who lives in Southern California.

That is relatively meaningless lead and comment. It doesn’t give any sort of real detail or reason why she doesn’t want to do it.

Reiss, who calls himself an “intactivist,” maintains a roster of 50 officiants who conduct nonsurgical alternatives to the bris, traditionally performed on the eighth day after a boy’s birth. He says he fields as many as five queries weekly from conflicted parents.

Wow, five whole queries. Percentage wise that has got to be quite small. Certainly I understand that people are going to pick and choose the mitzvot that they follow, but there are some that you just do not ignore.

Judaism is divided on the matter of converts. Reform Judaism does not require it, Orthodox and Conservative movements do.

Circumcision’s detractors also claim the procedure reduces sexual sensation and endurance.

“I haven’t attempted foreskin restoration surgery, but I’ve thought about it,” said Matthew Taylor, an active Bay Area Jew who resents his own circumcision and who preaches on the evils of the practice to Jewish friends .

But author Julius Lester, who became a Reform convert to Judaism in 1982 and underwent circumcision to feel Jewish, said the procedure also boosted his sex life.

“Circumcised there are far more subtle sensations, and staying power is much, much longer,” he said. “From a sexual point of view, I wish I’d gotten circumcised many years earlier.”

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16 Comments

  1. Jack's Shack October 13, 2007 at 1:23 am

    Well, over 3/4 of the world is intact, and only 0.3% get cut as adults. A Korean study published this year showed that most men cut as adults won’t acknowledge a change in sexual experience, but of the 20% who noted a change, 80% said sex got worse.

    Ron,

    That is a lot of words that say very little. We’re not talking about circumcising men. It is not applicable.

    “The downside is the severe risk, and indeed LOSS of sexual satisfaction” -Ron

    Millions have been performed and there are only a handful of stories. The risk is marginal.

    If you’re cut as an infant you have nothing to compare it to. It’s as if you’re saying “I love ice cream” even though you’ve only had vanilla, and your parents decided at your birh that you would never taste rainbow sherbet or rocky road. I like vanilla too, but I’ll take it all.

    I don’t have to visit the sun to know that it is hot or to enjoy its benefit.

    This is a circular argument. You haven’t proven anything. If you don’t like it, then don’t do it.

    Hugh,

    Again, no real fact, just allegations. If you don’t want to do it, then do not.

  2. Hugh7 October 12, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Benning seems to be a Christian who doesn’t read the Greek scripture (“New Testament”) such as Galatians 5 2.

    Jack’s Shack: “The bottom line is that every day parents make decisions for their children.” (How many times have I heard that one!) Yes, but not a decision to cut a healthy part off my child.

    “If a 5 year old told you that he wanted a tattoo and a nipple ring would you do it, because after all it is his body.” (That, at any rate, is a new one.) Of course not, just as I wouldn’t put on a tattoo or a nipple ring that he or she didn’t want, or cut off part of his or her genitals even if he or she wanted it (it would be illegal even if she was a consenting adult woman in some jurisdictions). The difference is about their options. Which decision gives the adult they are to become the more freedom to choose?

    “Not a single one of us remember any sort of pain or distress” You tread some dangerous ground with that one. Does that make drug rape (with a condom) all right as long as she doesn’t remember it?

    “If it makes you feel good to suggest that the health benefits are marginal feel free to do so.” This is not about me but the facts. More than 20 circumcisions to prevent one minor, treatable STI. 195 circumcisons to prevent one UTI. And so on.

  3. TLC Tugger October 12, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    “The person who claimed to be enriched by losing half his sensual nerve endings and 15 square inches of exquisite sexual interface is in the minority.” -Ron

    ^^ Do you have any fact to support your allegation ^^ -Jack

    Well, over 3/4 of the world is intact, and only 0.3% get cut as adults. A Korean study published this year showed that most men cut as adults won’t acknowledge a change in sexual experience, but of the 20% who noted a change, 80% said sex got worse.

    “The downside is the severe risk, and indeed LOSS of sexual satisfaction” -Ron

    ^^ I have never had any sort of issue or problem with lack of sexual satisfaction. ^^ -Jack

    If you’re cut as an infant you have nothing to compare it to. It’s as if you’re saying “I love ice cream” even though you’ve only had vanilla, and your parents decided at your birh that you would never taste rainbow sherbet or rocky road. I like vanilla too, but I’ll take it all.

    ^^ The reality is that there are health benefits. ^^ -Jack

    Yet no national medical association on earth (not even in Israel) recommends routine circumcision. Most roundly condemn it and the ones that acknowledge your benefits say those don’t outweigh the risks and drawbacks.

  4. sharona October 10, 2007 at 10:17 am

    There is some medical evidence that circumsion is healthy because it decreases the risk of infections and other things since they don’t have to clean it all the time.

  5. Jack's Shack October 10, 2007 at 5:44 am

    Good comments folks.

  6. Alice October 8, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Discussion about the health benefits is relevant for non-Jews, who are not bound by the same covenant as Jews.

    And if a health benefit is what inspires a non-religious Jew to circumcise their son, they might unintentionally be saving his life spiritually speaking, right? There are plenty of men who are too afraid to have this done as adults.

  7. Sabba Hillel October 8, 2007 at 12:44 am

    It is interesting that benning, a Christian sees more clearly than the so-called Jews who want to destroy the Covenant of Abraham. We do not perform bris milah for health reasons, or because of any effect that it might or might not have on one’s sex life.

    The only reason that we perform the bris milah (and not the surgical procedure known as circumcision) is because G-d commanded us to do so to every male on the eighth day. The fact that the eighth day superceded Shabbat and Yom Kippur shows how important it is.

    A parent who refuses to circumcise his son is liable for every day the child remains uncircumcised. Once the child becomes an adult, he is required to do it himself. If he does not, both he and his father are liable for this sin. The only reason for not performing a bris milah on the eight day is for the health of the infant. Once the infant recovers, it is done immediately. The Mohel is usually more knowledgable than a doctor in making that decision.

    Consider all the people who came from Russia and immediately entered a hospital in order to get it done kehalacha (according to Jewish law). Consider all the people in the Soviet Union who put themselves at risk of being sent to the Gulags in order to be able to maintain the covenant.

  8. benning October 6, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    I’m a Christian. My parents had me and my brother circumcised. We never asked about it. When I was old enough to understand what it was, and what the Bible said about it, I have to admit I was proud to be so “marked”.

    The nimrods who complain about it are no longer “People of the Book” but simple ethnic folks, with the connection to their forefathers gone. For me it smacks of the luddites who complain that such new-fangled things as neuro-surgery aren’t discussed in the Bible so they must not be allowed.

    Nonsense! The Good Lord gave us minds to use and learn and expand. If G_D says, “Do this and I will do this,” then why would you quibble? Where’s the upside? A better sex life? Really? Because a “study” says so? And for that you would sever your compact with your Creator?

    Sheer self-centered lunacy.

  9. Alice October 6, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    If a child has infections that require circumcision later, that means they will nedd to be put under, which is much more risky than the circumcision itself.

  10. Alice October 6, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Circumcision also reduces the risk of ovarian cancer for the female.

  11. Jack's Shack October 5, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    Hugh,

    I haven’t had a moment of regret about my son’s brit milah. I had it, my father had it, grandfathers etc.

    Not a single one of us remember any sort of pain or distress from having it done. Not a single one of us ever regretted having it done to ourselves or our children.

    If it makes you feel good to suggest that the health benefits are marginal feel free to do so.

    The bottom line is, whose body is it?

    The bottom line is that every day parents make decisions for their children. If a 5 year old told you that he wanted a tattoo and a nipple ring would you do it, because after all it is his body.

  12. Hugh7 October 5, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Smegma is about as pesky as earwax.

    Five queries a week I work out as being about 0.59% of male Jewish births. Not fantastic, but not insignificant when you consider how many will decide not to circumcise without consulting Dr Reiss.

    The 15 sq in is demonstrable. See http://www.circumstitions.com/Notjustaflap.html

    The sensitivity has been shown by Sorrells et al. See http:www.circumstitions.com/Sexuality.html#sorrells

    The reality is that the health benefits are marginal at best. More than 75% of the world’s men including most of the English-speaking world, Europe and Scandinavia manage very well without them. Australia and New Zealand tried mass circumcision and gave it up.

    You say you were proud. Your son felt only pain.

    The bottom line is, whose body is it?

  13. Jack's Shack October 5, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    The person who claimed to be enriched by losing half his sensual nerve endings and 15 square inches of exquisite sexual interface is in the minority.

    Do you have any fact to support your allegation.

    The downside is the severe risk, and indeed LOSS of sexual satisfaction

    Again this is the sort of hyperbolic hysteria that is promulgated by a small minority.

    I have never had any sort of issue or problem with lack of sexual satisfaction. I have a multitude of pleasurable experiences in the past and every reason to expect in the future.

    There is a reason that there is a small minority against it.

    The reality is that there are health benefits.

  14. TLC Tugger October 5, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    ^^ Now that we know the, er, UP side to it, what’s the downside to circumcision? ^^

    The person who claimed to be enriched by losing half his sensual nerve endings and 15 square inches of exquisite sexual interface is in the minority.

    The downside is the severe risk, and indeed LOSS of sexual satisfaction. In the case of infants, it’s the loss of the basic human right to a whole intact body and the right to decide for one’s self how much genital cosmetic surgery to undertake.

  15. bigwhitehat October 4, 2007 at 5:19 am

    A wise mechanic once told me, “S#@&# aint gotta make sense.”

  16. Mark October 4, 2007 at 4:00 am

    It boosted his sex life.

    And none of that pesky smegma to deal with either.

    Now that we know the, er, UP side to it, what’s the downside to circumcision?

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