I recently ditched the kids and headed out for a much-needed ladies’ night out. An hour later, five of us were gathered around a friend’s table, including three Jews and two pregnant Mamas. Three of the Mamas had sons, and the other two of us have two girls.
We chatted about all the foods our toddlers won’t eat, potty training, our failures as mothers, and a range of other topics that are of interest to no one except new mothers and total weirdos.
And then we started talking about circumcision. (Cue menacing music here.) And no, it wasn’t Jews vs. Goyim in the battle of the foreskin. In fact, the non-circumcisers included one non-Jewish Mama and one MOT.
You read right. There is a little Jewish boy running around out there with a perfectly intact penis. And even though I fully intend to circumcise my son (should I ever have one) I’m totally ok with that.
As I’ve told you all before, I’m not a halachic Jew. And it’s not because I’m too lazy to walk all the way to services on Saturday morning (although I am), or because our kitchen cabinets are too small to fit another set of plates (even though they are). It’s because I believe that not only are there are many ways to be Jewish, but that the strength of our community depends on it.
Ultimately, Judaism isn’t about what we believe, or even what we do. Whether one is born Jewish or converts, being Jewish is about making an active decision to remain engaged with the Jewish community and struggling with the challenges of our history and our future. And that’s exactly what my friends were doing when they decided not to circumcise, or circumcise without a bris. They were finding ways to reconcile contradictory values—a challenge every Jew, regardless of level of observance, faces on a regular basis. Sometimes the decisions we make are traditionally Jewish, and sometimes they aren’t.
I know, and respect, that circumcision doesn’t work for everyone. And I am so grateful to have friends who can discuss difficult issues in such a thoughtful, respectful way. What do you think?