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All about Foreskin

(Photo: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine)

Just when I was thinking of canceling my New York magazine subscription, they decide to come out with an issue on circumcision: “For and Against Foreskin”.

Look, I don’t have a baby boy. I don’t have baby boy parts either. So, this issue isn’t personal for me. It’s strictly religious. Mostly. Should I have a baby boy, he’ll be circumcised. No questions asked.

But even if I wasn’t Jewish, my sons would have been circumcised. At least if this article’s right. According to one article in the mix, “The Case Against the Case Against Circumcision”: “Circumcision, it turns out, could reduce the risk of HIV transmission by at least 60 percent, which, in Africa, adds up to 3 million lives saved over the next twenty years.” Are you reading this?
Hopefully this isn’t like the time people told me that giving up rice and milk would “cure” my fibromyalgia.

11 thoughts on “All about Foreskin

  1. At some point, it became very common for most American men to get circumcised. In my experience, most men born outside of America aren't. I've heard a lot of jokes on this issue about men wanting their sons to look like them (so they circumcise or don't).

    I got my ears pierce as a baby. I will pierce my daughter's ears as a baby if I have one. People have told me this is crazy! Barbaric! Wait until they have the right to choose! Well, getting your ears pierced as an adult hurts like hell for one.

    Funny, but it's interesting that I hear much of the same things said on ear piercing that I hear on circumcision! And what I hear is a lot of people calling each other nut jobs over religous and cultural beliefs.


  2. I'm not impressed much either. Easy for you to say, but there are plenty of people who are circumcised who regret it. Especially if there's no religious justification. Maybe you don't have a say in this discussion, much like men shouldn't have a say in abortion issues. It really annoys me when go rah rah for circumcision.


  3. Hey, I get it, Off the Derech and it's possible that you're right. I did couch my statements in the “I don't have male baby parts” category and I added that I would be doing it to my own male offspring simply because of our religious affiliation.

    I'm not rah rah about circumcision. Do people really cheer about these kinds of things? I mean, you want to hear about circumcision, ask an adult male convert who was formerly uncircumcised. Ouch.

    As the doctor points out in the video Caroline supplied, CONDOMS prevent HIV so I hope people don't think that circumcision is a foolproof way of stopping the spread of HIV.


  4. It seems like this is a civilized discussion. Cool! 🙂

    So, again, not trying to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't believe, but I do want to point out that many Jewish people are choosing to have an alternative ceremony for their boys called a Bris Shalom. Also, of all the people who feel strongly that circumcision shouldn't be continued, a disproportionate number of them are Jewish.

    Here are just a few examples

    Jewish mother Miriam Pollock on the circumcision of her sons

    These last two are short films

    “Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision” by Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon

    “Cutting With Tradition: Jewish Circumcision”

    (Bris Shalom is featured prominently in the last one)


  5. Caroline, civilized, yes, but you're barking up the wrong tree here. I am an Orthodox Jew. We don't do alternative ceremonies as such. We keep it strictly traditional. So traditional Jews will keep circumcising their children. To us, it is a Torah commandment. Not a choice.


  6. Okay, Aliza. Like I said, I am not trying to argue with your religious beliefs.

    I merely wanted to point out, that there are Jews of every denomination- including Conservative and Orthodox- who are questioning circumcision.

    You, and admittedly, most Orthodox Jews do not feel it is open for question, but some do, and I was only trying to show evidence of that fact.

    Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, who made the film “Cut” is an Orthodox Jew, as is his wife.

    I apologize if I offended you in any way.
    Best regards,


  7. Hi Aliza,
    I've been reading your blog for a while now, and you are a wonderful writer.

    I read through those articles in the newspaper after reading your post. While I don't think there is any way to argue against the religious reasons to choose circumcision, I do always feel uncomfortable when I hear arguments for why someone Jewish should choose circumcision, and then the proof for the arguments are medical proofs.

    The research keeps changing. If someone is doing it for a convenant, for God, then go ahead. But to use medical reasons to justify a religious decision doesn't sit well with me at all.

    I just wanted to point out that while routine circumcision in Africa might lower the transmission of AIDS by 60%, and might be a good policy to save many many lives in Africa, that doesn't follow that the same decision should apply to North America. First of all, the deaths from circumcision complications should outweigh the deaths from AIDS here in North America, in order for that to be true. I don't remember the answer to that question, but I think its something to look into. Growing up as an Orthodox Jewish boy, do you think your would-be son would be a particularly high risk for AIDS? Of course, on the individual level, there is always risk. But looking at the statistical level, what applies in Africa doesn't necessarily make sense here. So, I'm not sure that the AIDS argument is a great support for your choice. The religious reasons though… no argument there.
    I hope, as always, that I wrote sensitively enough not to offend anyone.


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