Circumcision Is Out Of Vogue: An Orthodox Rabbi Agrees
Tue, 06/28/2011
Special To The Jewish Week
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It’s easy to dismiss the supporters of a November initiative in San Francisco to make it illegal to circumcise children. Like all true believers, these “intactivists” engage in junk science and exaggerated rhetoric about “male genital mutilation.” Further discrediting their cause, the movement’s leadership peddles virtually anti-Semitic propaganda, such as the comic book “Foreskin Man,” which reads like a sophomoric plagiary of a superhero cartoon, a racy Penthouse fantasy and Der Sturmer. One could imagine that the intactivist movement will quickly pass from center stage. But it would be a mistake to think so.

Circumcision is unsettling. As the actor Russell Crowe wrote on Twitter: “I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats but stop cutting yr babies.” Despite the politically incorrect tone, Crowe reminds us why the anti-circumcision movement is here to stay: circumcisions are bloody and make babies cry. Even the committed among us are uncomfortable, and we look down nervously when the mohel begins the ceremony. It’s painful to enter the Covenant of Abraham.

In the past, circumcision was attractive to a majority of Americans because of its health benefits. Today, it’s become debatable if circumcision’s health benefits warrant it being a standard procedure. Without a clear medical rationale, non-Jews will stop circumcising their children, and unaffiliated Jews are sure to follow. The Jewish community can no longer rely on doctors to do the mohel’s job, and regardless of the outcome in San Francisco, it will be a lot harder to convince apathetic Jewish parents to perform circumcisions. Why would any parent want to endure the blood, pain and tears of their baby’s circumcision?

In short, circumcision is a marketing nightmare; outside of a deep commitment to Judaism, based on a biblical command, there’s no good reason to do it. This point is significant, because the Jewish community is intoxicated with marketing. Federations commission countless surveys to find out what young Jews want. Jewish professionals search for ways to make their programs “hipper.” The almighty “social media” must be deployed in the battle for the hearts of the younger members of the Tribe. Grant money flows liberally to market driven, cutting edge, jargon-laden programs with a social media presence.

I can’t argue against good marketing; representatives of a religion that has prized ideas should be able to communicate well. But there’s a thin line between marketing well and being “market driven.” The market-driven vision believes that the customer is always right. So if it’s Yiddish or yoga or Jewish jokes that turn young Jews on, let’s pour community resources into a Yiddish Yoga Yukfest. Instead of challenging young Jews, a market-driven vision of Judaism just wants to make our customers happy.

But here’s the problem. Aspects of Judaism like circumcision won’t win popularity contests. If we leave the future of Judaism in the hands of marketing experts, challenging rituals like circumcision or Yom Kippur will be ignored, and we’ll end up with a smooth syncretistic mumbo jumbo that has no resemblance to our 3,000-year-old tradition.

I’m a Modern Orthodox rabbi who talks a great deal about the place of Judaism in the 21st century. But increasingly I’ve come to realize that circumcision is incompatible with the times, as is much of Judaism. But that’s fine; Jews should be proud of how different we are. In an era of unprecedented individualism and hedonism, Jews declare that community is critical, even for an eight-day-old baby. We take pride in a ritual that affirms that sexual desire is not meant to be left unrestrained, but must be shaped by values of fidelity and devotion. When others seek endless comfort, we are willing to say that doing the right thing might be painful, but it’s still worthwhile.

Over the years, I’ve met inspiring people from the former Soviet Union who performed circumcisions under heroic circumstances. Defying the Communist dictatorship, they would huddle surreptitiously and perform the covenant of Abraham on children of varying ages. The amazing thing is that these Jews in the FSU had no Jewish education whatsoever. But even with only a rudimentary knowledge of Judaism, they understood that being Jewish means going against the current, and being Jewish requires personal sacrifice.

Even though Jews now enjoy freedom and prosperity, we still need to explain to young Jews that they, too, have to be willing to defy the spirit of the times to be Jewish. After all, Judaism is more than apples, honey and funny little hats. 

Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz is spiritual leader of Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem in Montreal.

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I have read that in the 3 oldest existing copies of the Torah that there is no mention of circumcision being part of the covenant between G-d and Abraham - the reference to circumcision was inserted some 1000 years later.

As a Jewish man, I resent that I was circumcised, and I've always viewed it as a violation of my body far worse than rape.

I hope that the progressive Jewish movement to stop circumcision becomes more prevalent.

I have no argument with how anyone feels about what is right for them, and yet I am offended by such a totally self absorbed man. How dare you say it is "far worse than rape." After you have been raped, then you can make that statement, if you still believe it.

Is sexual child abuse enough? I know that from personal experience. And I know Circumcised men. The feelings and experiences which they had were not far away from mine. I agree if someone compares sexual child abuse and child circumcision. I had no choice, they have no choice. My sex life was changed irrevocably. Their sex life was changed irrevocably. Now you can say...: "But they can not remember it."... Transfer the argument at sexual child abuse. And before you ask: Yes, I feel affected if it comes to that issue. And I am not the only one. Had you followed the debate in Germany there was an organization called "MOGiS e.V." consisting of sexulen abuse victims. They are also against this practice as I do. So do not tell him how he should feel!

To shine a short spotlight of rational thinking on the subject:

'Cruel and barbaric practice' is accurate only when describing impactful or torturous behavior that causes more pain than just a blood test or series of vaccinations.

No one would make the argument that a vaccination or blood test with a purpose should be illegal. Further no one is suggesting that the ear piercing of an infant should be labeled as primitive or barbaric or evil, despite it being only done because of the parents view that it is warranted for bejeweling their baby. In a similar manner, when Circumcision carries strong religious meaning in the parents eyes for the well-being of their child, it should be viewed no different. The Rabbi's point as I have read it, seems to be emphasizing that religious meaning too can be classified as good reason for things like ear piercing, vaccinations, and Circumcision. (FYI most baby's cry no more after Circumcision's that after shots given by their local Pediatrician).

To those people screaming about defending the CHILD'S RIGHTS:
How many circumcized Jewish men are complaining that their foreskin was taken away from them without their consent when they were a baby?

Denying a people the right to enter into the covenant of G-d with the Jewish people (bris means covenant) means to deny the practice of Judaism. When a country hosting Jews takes that step, they forfeit the blessing of having G-d's children as their guests.

Bye Bye America

The reason that believing Jews celebrate circumcising their newborn males has absolutely nothing to do with medical benefits, etc. The reason is pure and simple: G-d commanded us to do so. Just because some "enlightened", modern-day liberal "intactivists" think that they know better than G-d Himself, does not obligate me to adhere to their beliefs. It is not for them to decide exactly how far my rights extend, nor up to them to decide how exactly my right to freedom of religion should be exercised. Bottom line: Parents decide what is best for their children, including regarding circumcision. If my obligation under G-d to circumcise my son conflicts with the 14th Amendment, then the problem lies with the 14th Amendment.

To all of those who maintain that circumcising our newborn males is a restriction on the rights of the babies, it is absolutely no different than choosing to have them vaccinated or given shots to prevent diseases. The baby is just as defenseless and unable to protest what is being done to him as when he undergoes circumcision. The amount of pain that the child undergoes while receiving shots is oftentimes greater than when undergoing circumcision. What's more, circumcision can be reversed, even decades after the procedure. If an adult Jewish man who was circumcised as a baby so desperately wants his foreskin back, he can undergo a foreskin reattachment procedure.

With respect to Rabbi Steinmetz, I believe that his article in part may unconsciously further certain misconceptions about circumcision.
1. Pain
As a mohel who practices bris mila in the most authentic, natural, and gentle way, my observation has been that bris mila need not cause pain to the infant. Medical circumcision and circumcision using clamps etc, besides being invalid according to Jewish law, are far more uncomfortable for the infant.
Proof of this is that the baby is more disturbed by removing his diaper, or by the need to "burp", than by the circumcision itself when practiced by an expert.
2. Soul Benefits
More importantly, there are deep spiritual reasons for bris mila, as explained in kabbalistic and chassidic teachings. Since the time of our Patriarch Abraham, Jews have observed bris mila as the sign of our covenant with G-d, often with great self-sacrifice. More than any other ritual, this practice has been the ultimate affirmation of our Jewish identity.
3. Health Benefits
Many medical authorities advocate circumcision as a preventative measure against the spread of STDs and infections, including the World Health Organization and UNAIDS. Also see. for example www.medicirc.org

Rabbi Moshe Barrocas, certified mohel

Thank you for stating with knowledge about the kind, gentle way it is done, and more importantly to my soul, the importance of this for a Jewish family. This is a covenant with the Jewish People. Hearing a Rabbi trash circumcision, feels like a self loathing Jew. I am pretty sure he isn't, and yet his presentation made me feel this way.

Those individuals who seek to uproot bris milah are of the same camp as those who have sought to uproot kashrus, shabbos and every other holy institution in Judaism. Their ultimate goal is to dissect Judaism piece by piece until there's nothing of it left. They are simply cutting themselves off from the body of the Jewish people and will eventually fade into oblivion. On the other hand, those Jews who remain committed to authentic Torah Judaism, although may remain small in number (as predicted by the Torah itself), will survive and flourish until the end of time.

Pleople, why can't you stay out of our religious duties. I circumcised my son and I am very proud of that. I would travel to the ends of the earth to do it again. We do not practice Judaisn because it is 'in Vogue'!

Circumcision is a permanently disfiguring sexual violence against children. How any person can support this is beyond me.

Your religious rights do not extend to the unnecessary surgical alteration of the genitals of your children. Where were you people when we banned female genital cutting, of ALL kinds even a pinprick which is infinitely less sexually repressive than the amputation of tons of errogenous skin that male circumcision is. The FGM ban made no exceptions for religion.

If you support that ban yet are against a ban on male genital cutting you are a hypocrite and you think your religion deserves special treatment. Sorry, the 14th Amendment says that if female genital cutting is banned, male genital cutting must also be banned. Therefore the FGM ban is unconstitutional, and must either be revoked, or men must be given equal rights to genital integrity as women.

The pompous and self-righteous reactions against circumcision frankly make me sick - and yes, without knowing, they are one step away from anti-semitism. Why?
- First, the demand to remain "intact" is precisely the claim against Brit Mila made by anti-semites since the beginning of time. This was precisely the claim made by the Greeks against Jewish riitual: that a man's body was sacred, and any change made in it was sancrosanct.
- Second, the demand for "intactness" of the body does not extend to countless "unnatural" things that people do with their body - including their childrens' bodies - starting from sticking needles in them (injections) and including putting clothes on them (anyone ever try to put a hat on a baby?) Only this cultural ritual - which has no provable medical defects - is derided.
- Third, the "moral" basis of the "outrage" - that it is performed on babies who cannot express their "consent" - is shallow thinking masquerading as civil rights. We send children to cultural indocrination - schools - without their "consent", which is much more significant - indeed, infinitely more significant - than foreskins. The real cultural break between us Jews and the rest of you is that Jews are not part of the narcisistic, individual-oriented world of Hellenic values which is the basis for the "West". We believe in COMMUNAL and community values, including making children born to a Jewish woman part of our community, without "belief" or "conversion". On that basis we do that which our forefathers did - as long as it does not cause major damage.

No you are wrong Rabbi. The world is round. And like Greece, Babylon and Rome - this latest craze will pass and fade from the world - and the Jewish People will remain, circumcised and proud.

Written by a non-religious but traditional member of the Jewish People living in Tel Aviv

I wonder if the author was a little not-careful in what can be considered a criticism of bris mila. Fellow rabbi Rabbi Eidensohn thinks so:
http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2011/06/when-rabbis-blunder-attacking-bris.html

BS"D
The comments to this article highlight a major vacuum that exist in our current understanding and education in the Jewish community.
This is not an issue of a book not being read or a gap in some years of our history, but a much larger chasm:
-Our education is now skin deep
Thou shalt not steal, understood, adultery, understood. even Yom Kippur, prayer, and the holidays now all have explanations as to how they make us 'feel better'.
Brit Mila is our covenant not because it looks different, but because it is a fundamental difference in who we are and how we view our lives and the world's purpose. others circumcise because a small pain is believed to increase in long term health. We circumcise because we see the world as greater then ourselves. that we are not here for ourselves or our own pleasure but for a purpose. this is a lesson that we absorb when we tweak our choices of food based on the kosher laws, when we schedule our day around prayer and our year around the holidays. one tenth and more of our salary goes to charity as does a portion of our time.
As humans this extroverted life runs contrary to our nature, and G-d gave us a covenant to imbue this in our very essence, to remind us of it's importance and to help us with the process. we call this gift the Briss Mila.
We don't do Briss because it is better for us, we do it because we are better when we think less of ourselves.
If we teach our children not to walk into the street or to lean to far out the window, we can affect how long they will live and how healthy they will be. but nothing can have as profound an affect on what life will mean to them as this act of our imbuing them with this sensitivity, a life-long embedded lesson, that "it's not about me"

Thank you Rabbi Zalman for putting this issue into proper perspective. Most of the posters here seem to see it from an 'it's only about me' perspective instead of the true concept that we are here for a purpose as you have said. It seems modern society only sees sexuality as a personal pleasure. It has a created purpose so we can procreate. That's a purpose of life, it has nothing to do with personal pleasure alone. You don't have to follow it or any religion but to tell us that we cannot practice it as part of our religion is a double standard.

The ability of all of these people to completely twist and take the Rabbi's words out of context is mind-boggling. You know what? The bottom line is that G-d commanded this to Abraham and his seed. Period. All the other arguments for and against are largely irrelevant. Of course no Jew would do this if we weren't commanded! (You can tell by these comments because they don't understand that we were indeed commanded). But Jews have been circumcising at 8 days (unless it is delayed for medical reasons) since that time. If you want proof that the Torah was given by G-d, go to a Discovery Seminar as given by Aish HaTorah. If there is not one being held near you please watch one on http://torahanytime.com

Junk science? I beg to differ. The Dutch Medical Association's May 2010 report, backed by 7 other national medical associations, concluded:

"Contrary to what is often thought, circumcision entails the risk of medical or psychological complications."
"Non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors conflicts with the child's right to automony and physical integrity."
"There are good reasons for a legal prohibition of non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors, as there is for female genital mutilation."
"There is no convincing evidence that circumcision is useful or necessary in terms of prevention or hygiene."

www.norm-uk.org/news.html?action=showitem&item=1306

Similar results came from the British, Australian, Canadian and South African Medical Associations.

I also take issue with the 'junk science' statement. The science that you or I can pull regarding the HIV/AIDS trials in Africa show over and over again that protection is the minority in every metastudy available. These are government numbers, no skewing of the facts needed to make an anti-circ point.

Hypothetically even if circumcision DID prevent HIV in the majority- how many infants are out having sex? There are no medical benefits to infant circumcision that outweigh what is lost. This is a human rights issue on our front porch, not in some 3rd world country that can be forgotten about with the flip of a channel. It's time to step up and do what is right.

While I think circumcision is wrong, this article gave me a lot of hope. I agree with his prediction that non-jews will eventually stop circumcising altogether, and am happy that someone with his perspective has the far-sighted vision to see that. It brings me hope and joy to know that this practice's decline is virtually inevitable.
It is also hopeful that the author thinks that unaffiliated or apathetic Jews are sure to follow as a result. I hadn't thought about this, but I suppose this is a good thing, too. With a divided Jewish community, hopefully that will encourage more Jews to follow suit and quit circumcising, leaving eventually only a hard core religious group.
I find his statement that circumcision is incompatible with the times to be interesting. I wonder if perhaps he meant that society is slowly civilizing and moving away from barbaric customs.

...and pardon me Rabbi, but how can unnecessary circumcision of babies help make Jews "different" when Muslims and some Christians who feel obliged by the Book to do it are the "same"?

What actually makes Jews different is Russell Crowe's "apples, the honey and the funny little hats" (ie the non-invasive aspects of a deep culture and tradition) and of course the unique fact that one's Mother was Jewish.

The Rabbi says the purpose of MC following the revelation in Genesis 17 is in order to affect adversely the child's future sexual experience a la Maimonides: “it affirms that sexual desire is not meant to be left unrestrained, but must be shaped by values of fidelity and devotion”. Thanks, Rabbi, for naming it up. End medically unnecessary circumcision now.

Part of the problem is the unfair conflation of circumcision with cruelty, as if Jews set out to punish innocent male children in advance of all the wrong they may do in the course of their lives. Or perhaps the perceived cruelty lies elsewhere, in the religious mandate to indelibly "mark" a male infant as a member of the Tribe, when he may grow up to affiliate otherwise.

I totally agree with Rabbi Steinmetz's comments. I have frequently said, with respect to circumcision, that it is a primitive practice, but that it is OUR primitive practice.

Except that it's also the primitive practice of the Muslims, about half of US goyim, the Philippines, South Korea, tribal Africa, eastern Polynesia, some of Melanesia and some Australian aboriginals. The only things that make it Jewish are carried out in Brit Shalom. Here are contact details for celebrants, several of them rabbis: http://shalom.notlong.com.

Circumcision has always been incompatible with the times. In the first place it has nothing to do with Abram, whose covenant (as described in Genesis 15), has been ignored all these centuries. The act of slicing into an infant's penis originated during the Captivity ... as a *political* tool ... wrapped in the guise of religion by priests and scribes desperate to retain control over their wayward flock. Get a man to mutilate a newborn baby and you can get him to do just about anything.

In short, you've been "had" all these centuries.

Since the covenant was changed once, it can be changed again. Just slip another covenant into the Biblical narrative, and it's done.

I appreciate the ethical quagmire that the rabbi has wrestled with. So how hard is it to realize that today's infant will also one day be a man who can make his own rational (or emotional) informed decision about amputation of genital parts?

THOUS SHALL NOT STEAL. Ethically, it's HIS decision to make.

Even more painful to enter the covenant of Abraham when you are far too young to understand what is happening to you or what it represents.

The plain fact is that it is medically and ethically unjustifiable to circumcise anyone without their consent, and that includes the babies of Jewish parents. Note that I do not say Jewish babies, because the babies don't know what religion they are. Why not wait until a man is old enough to decide for himself? It would have much more meaning that way. And actually, all the new medical evidence shows that the harm caused by circumcision vastly outweighs the minor medical benefits that it gives - the author of this article needs to check his facts.

And the stuff about comparing circumcision to Yom Kippur falling out of favour is misleading - there is a big difference between engaging in a difficult religious ritual because you have freely chosen to do so, and having it forced upon you as an unconsenting baby. One could justifiably be sad about religious challenges being given up on simply because they are too much effort to complete, but no one with a heart could be sad about a painful, sometimes fatal (hundreds of babies die from circumcision every year, you know) and meaningless operation falling out of favour.

Are you claiming that babies have died in modern times and modernized countries from circumcisions performed by licensed, qualified individuals? Please provide sources for such outrageous claims.

I have also never seen any evidence that any harm caused by circumcision outweighs, much less "vastly outweighs," any minor medical benefits. Please provide sources.

Rabbi Steinmetz properly recognizes (as did Maimonides) that male circumcision restrains sexual expression. He asks what do young Jews want today. It is doubtful that they want restraint of their sexual expression.

He properly recognizes that there is far more to Judaism than circumcision and that male circumcision is not right for the 21st century. Many younger Jews recognize this and have popularized an alternative to Brit Milah called Brit Shalom, which is a non-cutting naming ceremony that does not draw blood and does not cause pain.

When compared with real anti-Semitic cartoons from the Nazi era, the Foreskin Man cartoon does not stand up as real anti-Semitic material. The real stuff aims at all Jews. The Foreskin Man cartoon targets only the mohel who actually does the circumcision. There is an important distinction there.

Furthermore, the real anti-Semites placed great value on circumcision because it was a mark of identification that guaranteed a quick trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau. On the other hand, Foreskin Man is against circumcision. One needs to be careful and not shout "anti-Semitic" as a knee-jerk reaction.

Your attempt to claim that a cartoon making Jews who believe in circumsision appear to be inherently evil (including portraying the character as old, hook-nosed, and dirty) is not anti-Semitic is ridiculous and does not hold water. Any such "cartoon" that claims to target only one segment of a religion, but portrays that segment with all of the traditional "evils" attributed to it by anti-Semitic regimes, is, clearly, itself anti-Semitic. It certainly does not have to be as bad as "Nazi era" cartoons to qualify as such.

The author did NOT, as you claim, suggest that circumcision "restrains sexual expression." He states that it "AFFIRMS (emphasis added) that sexual desire is not meant to be left unrestrained, but must be shaped by values of fidelity and devotion," as a symbol and reminder. This does NOT mean that he is claiming that any "sexual expression," nor any "sexual desire" (his actual wording), is PHYSICALLY "restrained" or lessened. You are twisting his words around to claim as such.

"Over the years, I’ve met inspiring people from the former Soviet Union who performed circumcisions under heroic circumstances. Defying the Communist dictatorship, they would huddle surreptitiously and perform the covenant of Abraham on children of varying ages."

Good for them. However it seems the men that were circumcised weren't quite as inspired.

http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mk.ru%2Fsocial%2Farticle%2F2011%2F06%2F24%2F600071-muzhchinyi-potrebovali-ot-vrachey-povernut-obrezanie-vspyat.html&act=url

The thing is that intactivist are only against infant circumcision and not even all of them are against religious circumcision, but you do make excellent points for the argument against it: "being Jewish requires personal sacrifice." and it should be a personal sacrifice, a personal choice. "we still need to explain to young Jews that they, too, have to be willing to defy the spirit of the times to be Jewish." yes explain it and and let them comply of their own free will.

My children have the right to be free of my religion.

I would like to make something perfectly clear, because if I hear the word "personal" applied to someone's penis other than the one attached to the person saying the word "personal" I might just scream:
A personal sacrifice (or choice, for that matter) applies to one's PERSON. I think this should be pretty obvious. It is not a personal sacrifice for YOU to hand your newborn over to someone to have part of his penis cut off. You are literally making a blood sacrifice of your child. Is this his choice? No. Is *he* making a covenant with G*d when YOU draw his blood and remove erogenous tissue? NO! Every time you circumcise a baby, you violate his rights to religious freedom because you force him into a blood-letting scarification ritual. And if he doesn't want to practice Judaism as an adult? The scars of YOUR religion remain on his body.

Sorry, but there is no excuse for the genital mutilation of children. You certainly recognize that for women. It's past time we recognize that worldwide for men.

The ban on female cutting of any kind bans even a pinprick and without any religious exemption.

Constitutionally, men are obligated to be given the same protection under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Circumcision removes the most sensitive part of the male genitalia and results in lifelong cosmetic and functional defects.

Your religious rights do not extent to the unnecessary surgical alteration of the genitals of your children, regardless of their gender. Circumcision violates the CHILD's right to freedom of religion, which includes freedom from religion. A society interested in individual rights must enforce the right of a person to decide for themselves what part of the genitalia they get to keep. Any other position on the matter is unacceptable and is a violation of the most basic human rights.

I have not heard of any basis for female genital mutilation that does not stem from the purpose of removing the opportunity to have sexual pleasure. However, that is not the rationale behind, nor the effect of, Jewish male circumcision as an infant. There are various procedures on newborns that some party or another has an argument against, including blood tests to check for illnesses whose treatment should begin right away, claiming that even blood tests cause harm to newborns at too great an extent to be acceptable. On the whole, I think that most such claims are baseless, and the same goes for your argument against circumcision. If you don't feel the same way about blood tests or other such procedures as those extreme anti-"traumatic" procedure protesters, please try to use that idea to put yourself in the shoes of those of us who feel that religious circumcision is a perfectly acceptable procedure for an infant, who quickly recovers from the moment of trauma, and can and will grow up with a perfectly functioning sexual organ.

"Like all true believers, these “intactivists” engage in junk science and exaggerated rhetoric about “male genital mutilation.”"

I'm not sure if this is something you're paraphrasing from the viewpoint of others who would try to discredit our message, or if you feel this way yourself, but I take issue with that comment. The 'junk science' actually comes from those who press for cutting healthy body parts from babies. And our rhetoric about MGM isn't exaggerated - the practice fits the definition of mutilation, that's why we call it what it is. Just because it's widely accepted here in America (or wherever) doesn't mean it's any less of a mutilation than the different types of cutting that are inflicted on girls in various parts of the world.

At any rate, it is heartening to see more and more Jewish people question this tradition. Thank you for being honest enough to admit this openly.

"We take pride in a ritual that affirms that sexual desire is not meant to be left unrestrained, but must be shaped by values of fidelity and devotion."

It's good to see an Orthodox rabbi admit that male circumcision reduces sexual pleasure.

Now the only thing left to debate is whether or not performing such a surgery on a baby is ethical.

Wow! You just won the "I have no idea what I'm talking about and everything is going over my head" award! Where in the rabbi's statement is there any hint of circumcision causing a reduction in sexual pleasure? All he is saying is that circumcision goes hand in hand with the idea that sexual desires must be controlled. We are not animals that mate without conscience, after all.

Forced circumcision is genital mutilation, a sexual assault. Doing this to an adult, without their expressed consent is legally defined as an aggravated sexual assault. Cutting healthy erogenous tissue from a child for specious claims of health or religion is disturbing to anyone not steeped in the cultural brainwashing that always accompanies forced genital cutting.

Thankfully people are finally waking up to this atrocity.

boyfriend, you need to get over yourself. the fact is that circumcision was commanded by G-d to the Jewish people. he doesn't command us to do anything that would be harmful to us. so just relax, you don't have anything to worry about...

Rabbi Steinmetz thoughtful piece is very refreshing. He recognizes that there is far more to Judaism than circumcision.

The alleged health benefits are a fiction first invented by Jewish doctors in Germany in the 19th century to defend the Jewish practice which was under severe attack at the time. There is a full discussion of this by John M. Ephron at:

http://www.cirp.org/library/history/ephron1/

While Rabbit Steinmetz may not approve, many Jews are turning away from the physical cutting of their boys. They increasingly are opting for a non-cutting naming ceremony called Brit Shalom.

I don't know what's more disturbing, the fact that there are those who want to ban Brit Milah in the non-Jewish world or brethren that think that can simply replace Brit Milah (circumcision) which is one of the touchstones of Judaism with a made up ceremony. A male who has no Brit is an Orel and is not part of the Jewish community. The idea that you can simply invent a replacement for something that doesn't jive with your modern, liberal sensibility will literally destroy our tradition and in this instant cause a major split in the Jewish people.
I saw the Jews against Circumcision web-site. The explanation of the Brit Shalom is a complete misuse of Rabbinic and Torah texts and is a farce.
It's as if I woke up one morning and decided that I need a rationale for eating a burger on Yom Kippur and called it the עינוי (discomfort) Burger and that by eating it without my favorite condiments I am keeping Yom Kippur in the same manner as if I didn't eat.
Just come out and say that you don't believe in even the basics of Halacha and that your sensibility trumps that of the most basic act of Judaism. At least be honest.

"the movement’s leadership peddles virtually anti-Semitic propaganda"

That comic is the work of one person. The leadership of the genital autonomy movement does not support that individual's point of view.

"outside of a deep commitment to Judaism, based on a biblical command, there’s no good reason to do it."

Exactly! If doctors refused to perform non-therapeutic male circumcision on healthy non-Muslim and non-Jewish boys, this would not be an issue for most people.

This obsession with Foreskin Man is quite fascinating. It shows that you're really running out of material. Even worse, you're perpetuating false information. Hopefully this is because you're merely misinformed. The author of Foreskin Man is one individual expressing his individual opinion. It is not being distributed, marketed by or in any way associated with the intactivism leadership, other than the author being an intactivist. BTW, nobody in the medical industry batted an eyelash at the villain in the first FSM "issue," the WASPy Dr. Mutilator.
Other than that, the good rabbi has it right. Genital cutting on children who cannot consent or defend themselves is out of vogue. The sooner we all stop doing it, the better. Things change, we learn better, and bad ideas like slavery, segregation, the subjugation of women, cutting off the hands of thieves, stoning adulterers to death and so forth end up in the trash bin of history where they belong. Bris Shalom -- the party without the cutting -- is a lovely idea and a sweet way to welcome a new child of either gender to the family.

For those who say the creator of Foreskin Man is just an individual, he happens to be just the individual who wrote the bill in San Francisco. Say what you want, but you can't dismiss him as some random person who just happens to agree with you.

The response of intactivists that I have seen online has generally been to get upset because the comic was a 'strategic mistake' not because they actually disagree with the contents, which is of course disturbing since the comic advocates kidnapping Jewish children and raising them as non-Jews.

Not all intactivists are antisemitic, but it antisemites are certainly is a significant group within the intactivist movement. In general, the larger sub-group of intactivists is clearly anti-religious. They would claim they are not antisemitic because they disapprove of all religion, but hate is hate however you slice it. Intactivists have chips the size of building on their shoulders.

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