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May 22 2012

We Don’t Love Our Firstborn More, We Swear

By at 4:07 pm

little boy eating yogurtOne day my daughter will ask me, “Daddy, why was my naming ceremony a small gathering in the synagogue while Asher’s bris was a large bash at our house?”

Yes, my princess, you might be thinking it’s because your religion is sexist and your parents already like their firstborn son better. And perhaps this writing is nothing more than me trying to convince myself it’s not the case. But here’s why I don’t think so: first, right now, your brother is covered in yogurt. A few minutes ago, he screamed and fell on the floor when I took my car keys back from him. So, I don’t like him better. And is your religion sexist? Maybe you should read about exactly what goes down at a bris. Read the rest of this entry →

May 1 2012

Bris Tips (ha!) from a Mom Who’s Been There

By at 9:49 am

Uncanny resemblance, right?

Six years ago, when I was expecting my first child, my husband and I debated ritual circumcision. We finally concluded that we would do it for the sake of shalom bayit, for the peace of the family. Now our house is overrun with boys: I have a 6-year-old and 1-year-old twins. That’s a lot of brit milah.

A bris usually takes place in the morning because Jewish tradition declares that a mitzvah be performed early in the day. But each bris I planned had a slightly different flavor than the traditional. Both took place in the late afternoon to allow time for out-of-towners to arrive. One was held in Boston with tons of New York family and local Jewish friends. The other was held in Atlanta with a handful of out of town family members and many non-Jewish friends. Each time we chose a Reform, female, mohel with an MD.

Here’s some hands-on advice for the foggy, postpartum days when you’d rather take a nap but find yourself hosting a bris for a cast of thousands. Parents of twins, there is a special section for you. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 2 2011

Big Fat Canadian Bris

By at 11:21 am
Gifts at the bris

Just your typical gift table at a Canadian bris.

What is the plural for bris? Whatever it is, I have been to many. But none compare to my BFF’s big fat Canadian bris.

My BFF lives in a small windswept Canadian city with a tight-knit Jewish community. It is small enough that there is no local mohel, so when a baby boy is born they have to fly in a non-yokel mohel. Because of this, the time of the bris is determined by Air Canada’s flight schedule. If the plane lands at 7:00 a.m., you will have a 9:00 a.m. bris, and if it lands at 3:00 p.m., you’re not the only one getting the shaft because you’ve got a 6:00 PM bris on your hands.

An explanation is in order. The time of the bris dictates what type of food must be served. A 9:00 a.m. bris means you can get away with serving bagels, lox, fruit salad, and pastries. But at a 6:00 p.m. bris, dinner must be served. Problem is, although it is a Jewish tradition that the whole community is welcome to a bris, no one takes this literally except in small-town Canada!

I thought it would be really cool if I, the sophisticated New Yorker, brought something yummy and kosher from the center of all yumminess and kosherness. When I offered to bring a couple of babkas from the famous Zabar’s in New York, my friend laughed uncontrollably. She appreciated the gesture, but she said three babkas would be bupkes. “How many people could possible show up?” I asked. “You’ll see.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 20 2011

Will Natalie Portman Circumcise Her Son? Should We Care?

By at 3:03 pm

What will Natalie do on day eight?

I have gone back and forth on my place in this circumcision “debate” more times than I can count.

Should I write about the proposed ban on circumcision in San Francisco and (almost) Santa Monica? Should I put myself out there to be (again) attacked with vicious hate language for my adherence to Jewish law? Should I voice my feelings of conflict and simultaneous joy to fulfill this most difficult of commandments?

Should I strike back at the anti-circumcision folks with the tools they have given me; namely, the anti-circumcision comic book with images like this of “Foreskin Man” and  “Monster Mohel”? Should I use sarcasm and anger and a smidge of Holocaust-driven paranoia or deal with the issues at hand minus sarcasm, anger, and paranoia? Should I speak up?

No. I decided I am not gonna do it. I am hyper-sensitive by nature and it’s been too hard of a week. I wish I had more in me to handle this, but I don’t right now.

So I will instead ask you this: what will Natalie Portman do? (In case you live in  cave or don’t read Kid-dish, Natalie had a baby boy last week.) Not that it’s my business, but will she or won’t she? Circumcise, that is. Will she even make public her decision about what to do on day 8 of her son’s life? (Mazel tov, by the way, Nat.)

Do celebrity Jews have some sort of obligation to the Jewish community at large to let us know about their observance especially when it puts a “good” face on observance? When Sacha Baron-Cohen discusses kosher food options or working on Shabbat, it really touches me. When Matisyahu puts himself out there as a successful and devout observant Jew, it amazes me. When Natalie Portman conducts an interview in Hebrew (check it out for yourself on youtube!), it thrills me.

So at this time of public discussion about circumcision (at least in some circles), I will be paying a little more attention to any baby news from Natalie’s corner.

Whatever she decides, God bless her right to exercise both her freedom of religion that our country guarantees, and her free will, which our religion guarantees.

Whatever she decides, I respect her right to exercise both her freedom of religion that our country guarantees, and her free will, which our religion guarantees.

Want more Mayim? And to see all of our Natalie coverage, go here.


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