Rabbi Decries Attack Circumcision

Takes exception to "vitriol' in a Patch blog.


(Rabbi Harry A. Manhoff of Temple Beth Sholom refutes a recent in which author Richard Mellor used terms such as "barbaric" to describe male circumcision.)

Richard Mellor's vicious diatribe against circumcision is not only hyperbolic, it borders on anti-Semitic.

Circumcision is not barbaric just because he says so. Ritual circumcision is removing an extra flap of skin that may or may not prevent penile and cervical cancer, may or may not prevent the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and it may or may not reduce sexual sensation. These medical questions are still not settled.

What is clear is that ritual circumcision practiced by Jews, Muslims, and some African communities is no different than medical circumcision practiced throughout the United States for generations.

Mellor writes: "Circumcision for health reasons of course are different."

Why is that not genital mutilation? Based on Mellor's other writing, it seems that his hatred of religion is the basis of this vitriol. In the past he has railed against the church for being against a woman's right to choose an abortion, which he does not describe as "barbaric."

I am a pro-choice clergyman. For me, my religion is not "pretty bizarre" and circumcision is not Abraham's imagination of "a supernatural being that he apparently communicated with." 

For me, the ritual obligations of Judaism and all religions, are the impetus for all of ethical and moral behavior. My tradition demands of me consistency in my respect of ethical and ritual choices made by others outside of my tradition.

If Mr. Mellor does not want to circumcise his sons, I respect his choice.  I hope he respects my choice as well. 

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Leah Hall March 25, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Hugh7 is correct. Guilty........ ;-)
Allan Lindsay-O'Neal March 25, 2012 at 10:09 PM
One of the arguments put forth here is "Well, this what the people are doing so the religion should adapt." Nonsense. None of you seem to understand that the job of the church is to NOT change. Public mores and values are subject to drift and whim: an immovable church provides a foundation for morality. Attacking religion is tantamount to saying we should all revert to the level of the common beast and do what we want.
Mark Lyndon March 25, 2012 at 10:17 PM
People used similar arguments to ban inter-racial marriage,and defend slavery, killing adulterers, and stoning to death girls who've had pre-marital sex.
Leah Hall March 25, 2012 at 10:22 PM
How about this then, Mark? There is real-time and there is geological or glacial time. There are many scales of time, in any event. Just think of it as another form of divesity. Our greatest strength and sometimes our greatest challenge, as a civilization.
Leah Hall March 25, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Not to mention that one of the most powerful civil rights advocates in the US was a preacher who was inspired initially by the Beatitudes and life and times of you know who....
David March 25, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Because a Christian who didn't own slaves was breaking a commandment? Because my Catholic "Negro" grandma married my blond Catholic grandfather, they weren't Catholics anymore? Guess you should have told the priest. Because a Muslim who didn't kill an adulterer is not really a Muslim? Because a Jew who eats a cheeseburger is now not a Jew? Your argument is, for want of a better word, stupid. Repeating it won't make it less stupid. However, some simple things *are* required to be, say a Catholic. You *must* be baptized for example. A Muslim convert must recite the shahadah. A Jewish man *must* be circumcised. Period.
Mark Lyndon March 26, 2012 at 12:03 AM
I'm well aware of Martin Luther King Jr, and all the Christian slavery abolitionists, but I was making the point that the teachings of the church *do* change. @David: Seventy years ago, there wouldn't have been many priests who would have married a white man and a black woman. There are some Muslims who say that their daughter must be circumcised period. I think their daughter's rights come first though. There are also some Muslims who believe that they have to kill family members if they stop being Muslim or if they marry a non-Muslim. That doesn't make it acceptable. There are plenty of things that are not considered acceptable, regardless of people's religion, and I think that cutting off parts of the genitals of children should be one of them. It's illegal to cut the prepuce off a girl, or even to make a symbolic pinprick down there. Why don't boys get the same protection?
David March 26, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Mark, you have no idea. Here's a nickel, buy a clue, and if my grandparents were alive, they'd be mocking you too. You continue to have no understanding of the distinction between a religious requirement and a cultural tradition.
Fran March 26, 2012 at 12:50 AM
i just read the wikipedia entries for both male and female circumcision. I think it is disingenuous to equate their affects. There is no religion that requires the latter. The latter is much more dangerous and illegal in the U.S. The former is illegal nowhere, not even Sweden. There is obviously a large faction of people, or a very vocal small minority who are against it. If you click on the links of commenter names above, you will find it is all they talk about, on multiple patches and, I can only guess, other forums. To each his own, I've never given the matter much thought before.
Leah Hall March 26, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Apparently, Fran doesn't think about /it/ every seven seconds, (as widely purported to be true of the fairer sex). ;-)
David March 26, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Leah, even I have better things to think about.
Leah Hall March 26, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Damn you, Wee Bull Birmingham!
Mark Lyndon March 26, 2012 at 11:01 AM
I suspect I know a lot more about both male and female genital cutting than you do. Try attacking my arguments and not me. I'm delighted that your grandparents found a priest to marry them, but he would have been in a small minority. Have you ever tried telling people who cut their daughters that female genital cutting isn't a religious requirement? I have, and their response is similar to yours.
Mark Lyndon March 26, 2012 at 11:14 AM
There are plenty of people who do believe that their religion requires female circumcision, and they get just as upset when people talk about banning it. They always compare it to male circumcision btw. Female cutting was legal in the US until 1996. Some of the most common forms of female circumcision do a lot *less* damage than the usual form of male circumcision. Sometimes there's just an incision with nothing actually removed. One form just removes the clitoral hood (the female foreskin), so it's the exact equivalent of cutting off a boy's foreskin. In some countries, female circumcision is performed by doctors in operating theatres with anesthesia. Conversely, male circumcision is often performed as a tribal practice. Over 100 males died of circumcision in just one province of South Africa last year and there were at least two penile amputations. Are you aware that the USA also used to practise female circumcision? Fortunately, it never caught on the same way as male circumcision, but there are middle-aged white US American women walking round today with no external clitoris because it was removed. Some of them don't even realise what has been done to them. There are frequent references to the practice in medical literature up until at least 1959. Most of them point out the similarity with male circumcision, and suggest that it should be performed for the same reasons. Blue Cross/Blue Shield had a code for clitoridectomy till 1977.
Rachel Mills March 26, 2012 at 06:00 PM
David, I would suggest then that when a man decides to follow the Jewish faith, he should sign up for his circumcision. Your parents can raise you a certain way, but they can't be Jewish for you. If Abraham and lots of other Jews were circumcised as adults, what's the problem?
Rachel Mills March 26, 2012 at 06:05 PM
The WHO defines 4 different degrees of female circumcision. Similarly male circumcision varies from removing just the tip of the ridged band of the foreskin to radical removal of all the foreskin to subincision practiced by some Aborigionals. What degree of female cutting are you comparing to what version of male cutting? At what age? In a hospital setting or with a rusty razor blade? I would encourage you to keep giving the matter thought. I understand your perspective, and before I had really looked into the matter I also did not think FGM and MGM were fair comparisons, but how can they not be?
David March 26, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Mark, the Catholic Church never had a proscription against interracial marriage. Look it up. You continue to prove yourself a fool.
David March 26, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Rachel, why would you ban Judaism in America, where freedom of religion is expressly protected by the Constitution?
Mark Lyndon March 26, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I never said it did, and the Catholic church played a large part in ending legislation against "miscegenation", but there still wouldn't have been many Catholic priests that would have performed an inter-racial marriage in the USA around the time I'm guessing your grandparents were married. It was still illegal in 16 states right up until 1967. Continually insulting me rather than responding to my arguments only makes you look bad btw.
Rachel Mills March 26, 2012 at 06:38 PM
David, once again, freedom of religion is not absolute. A child's right to both bodily integrity and religious choice supercede another person's religious freedom. I wouldn't "ban" Christian Scientists, but I *would* put them in jail for medical neglect were they to deny a blood transfusion to their child. And there is case law where just this happened. Also Jews don't actually do penis checks for participation in their communities. The ACTUAL ramifications (as opposed to the assumed or imagined ones) for not being circumcised in a Jewish are negligible or non-existent. And lastly, if you would still insist that a religion *requires* what society increasingly considers to be ritual child abuse and mutilation in order to exist, then yeah. Maybe it deserves to be sincerely questioned and abandoned by nice people. OK, happy? But I don't think that is the case. I have a lot of respect for Judaism. All anyone is asking is to delay the practice until the age of consent. Grown men are welcome to chop up and filet their privates all they want for whatever reason they want. Just leave the babies alone.
David March 26, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Rachel. See above. Conflating circumcision with denying life-saving treatment, etc etc is a bit hysterical. At least you admit that you would ban the practice of Judaism from America then. Be upfront about being anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim. It's more refreshing to see your bigotry out in the sunlight.
David March 26, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Mark, I responded to your "arguments" ad nauseum. Yet you repeat the same old. The responses don't change. "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly."
Juan March 26, 2012 at 08:15 PM
@David, every religion has had to evolve as times change. I don't think that freedom of religion means that we have to accept that: "And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him". Times change. A parent might think that religious freedom justifies him to do something to his/her child. But have they asked their child if they accept it? Of course not, if their child is a 8 days old baby! So why make an assumption that means that the baby will be mutilated for the rest of his life! What if instead of the foreskin it was an eye? Would it be different to you? Would you still think that the parent's religious freedom should prevail over that of the baby? What about the babies that have died of Herpes after a jewish circumcision? How can that be justified? The thing that you neglect to see is that we are not discussing religious freedom. We are discussing that a parent should respect their child's religious freedom as well, and if the religion demands to do something that cannot be undone, then in that single aspect there is a conflict between the religious freedom of two individuals, and proceeding with the ritual over a baby means denying his individuality, denying his religious freedom, and assaulting his human right to bodily integrity. How do you reconcile religious freedom with human rights? What should prevail?
Juan March 26, 2012 at 08:32 PM
"The commandment is binding upon both the father of the child and the child himself. If a father does not have his son circumcised, the son is obligated to have himself circumcised as soon as he becomes an adult." Source (http://www.jewfaq.org/birth.htm#Brit) In other words, the father could perfectly wait and allow his child to do it as an adult, should he decide to continue the path of his parents. Later the same source indicates: "As with almost any commandment, circumcision can be postponed for health reasons. Jewish law provides that where the child's health is at issue, circumcision must wait until seven days after a doctor declares the child healthy enough to undergo the procedure." The same source acknowledges the controversy over whether the Bris Milah is beautiful and barbaric, quotes the (improper studies) about the supposed reduction of HIV rates (without realizing that this reduction is dependent on specific circumstances) but then states that: "The G-d who commanded us not to harm ourselves certainly would not command us to do something harmful to ourselves, and even if He did, the observant Jew would nonetheless heed His wishes." My only point is, when it comes to religious freedom and human rights in conflict, which should prevail? I can't answer that for anyone. It's an ethic decision.
Ima Babylover April 01, 2012 at 12:42 PM
. Let someone try assaulting a baby that way where somebody awake can see it and the attacker will go straight to jail. But the same attack on an infant is ok in a nice soundproof hospital room where mom is sleeping nearbiy and babys opinion means nothing because mom gave consent when it wasn't her skin being amputated. . Certain people believe a newborn owes society skin nerves and smooth muscle Do they teach heartless robots to cut off part of a babies penis in med school, really? How coldhearted can a person be? Is quackery legal? Does a compassionate person let anyone cut a babys genitals so he can't enjoy normal sex when he's older or does a kind person let them cut a babies tastebuds off his tongue (prevent germs?) so he can't enjoy food?. Can we really justify TRAUMATICALLY PERMANENTLY injuring or killing one baby because of societal disease spread?.. How is prevention of PUBLIC DISEASE SPREAD A PRIORITY OVER A NEWBORNs body protection?, Is injuring a healthy child for any reason quackery? what kind of sacrifices are people in the US willing to make where another persons skin is at stake? . Isn't mutilation of a childs healthy genitals perverted quackery with clear intent to irreversibly harm and punish?
Hugh7 April 01, 2012 at 09:51 PM
"There is no religion that requires the latter." "Those who advocate for FGM from an Islamic perspective commonly quote the following hadith to argue that it is required as part of the Sunnah or Tradition of the Prophet: 'Um Atiyyat al-Ansariyyah said: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (pbuh) said to her: Do not cut too severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband'." 1,8 - www.religioustolerance.org "The latter is much more dangerous and illegal in the U.S." Not necessarily more dangerous. In 2010 the AAP proposed to allow a token minimal nick to girls "much less extensive than neonatal male genital cutting" - but the human-rights-based outcry made them withdraw the proposal. "The former is illegal nowhere, not even Sweden." Finland is working on it. "To each his own." That's exactly what we're saying.
Perkeo April 07, 2012 at 03:19 PM
It only took two sentences for the Rabbi to bring up the "anti-semite" card to the table. That has to be a new world record. Circumcision is a barbaric act done solely to diminish the sexual pleasure of men (and indirectly of women), make no mistake about it. All the supposed "health benefits" are marginal at best, and provable fallacies in almost every case. Let me give you an example of how circumcision affects women: After a couple of dates, a woman invited me to her bedroom and before engaging in intercourse, she reached inside the nightstand drawer and pulled out a "personal lubricant". As a man with a natural penis, I associate lubricant exclusively with anal sex, so I was a bit surprised at her forwardness. Fortunately before I made an awful mistake, I realized she had never been with an uncut man before. I reassured her that lubricant wasn't going to be necessary that night, and despite her apprehensions we moved forward. It was a great evening of discovery for both of us as all her pre-conceptions about uncut penises were destroyed one by one. She was surprised that it was impeccably clean and that it looked much healthier than a cut penis. She was also blown away by how a natural penis moved both in or outside inside her vagina. The next morning, after a prolonged and exhausting night of "discovery", the young woman couldn't believe that the lubricant had remained unused, but most adamantly, she couldn't believe that she felt no soreness or discomfort.
pat July 06, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I'd like to point out that medicalized circumcision in the United states hasn't been around for very many generations. It was introduced in the mid 19th century as a means of preventing masturbation in older boys. Although it slowly gained popularity among doctors, they weren't doing it to babies until well into the 20th century - probably with the influence of Jewish doctors, because I can't imagine who else would have though of doing this to a baby. The majority of parents didn't have their children born in hospitals until around the mid 20th century; before then, there was no risk of their babies being circumcised. Claiming that it is "no different" than that practiced by Muslims and Jews is misleading. Most medical institutions will acknowledge that circumcision is unnecessary, though if it has to be done, at least they provide a clinical setting to reduce the risks of infection or uncontrolled bleeding (which can be fatal to newborns, as recent news has shown both in the UK and New York following infant circumcisions).
Rachel Mills February 06, 2013 at 10:16 PM
David bodily integrity is a human right. You are fighting for Jewish babies to be born with inferior human rights. Yes, I will fight you on that, and it actually makes you the more anti-Semitic one of the two of us. "Consenting adults" should be the standard here. Let that baby grow up and decide. THAT, my friend, is freedom of religion.
Kris March 28, 2013 at 12:53 AM
I lost 10,000 to 20,000 nerve endings and 12 to 15 square inches of skin (size of a 3x5 index card) that I will never get back. :-( My parents took that away from me. God has a reason for that foreskin to be there.


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