It seems like the bris ceremony may be going out of style (albeit very slowly). The bris, which is the ritual circumcision of Jewish boys at eight days old, is one of Judaism’s oldest traditions.
The ritual is first seen in the Torah when Abraham circumcises himself and then his firstborn son–so you know, it’s been a pretty big deal for millennia. But according to this week’s New York Times piece by Rebecca Wald, many parents are beginning to wonder if the bris ceremony is really necessary. Wald, the founder of Beyond the Bris, an online community for parents who aren’t sure about whether to circumcise their newborn boys or not, is the perfect person to start this conversation:
“Right now, there is a ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’ policy within much of institutional Judaism when it comes to parents skipping circumcision.
The questions parents consider range from the practical — How much will it hurt? — to the existential — Will my son even be Jewish?”
Dana Edell, a parent of a newborn, said why she didn’t want to circumcise her son:
“I knew that I wanted to raise my child Jewish and in a Jewish home. And yet I’m also a feminist and activist, and believe very strongly in the right to your own body.”
Instead, she opted for “a “gentle bris” ceremony with alternative ritual objects: a pomegranate, a gold kiddush cup, and a large ceramic bowl filled with water to wash the baby’s feet, an ancient act of welcoming the stranger.”
The article also pointed to a Pew survey of American Jews in 2013 that “revealed a significant rise in secular Jews who are marrying outside the faith, and roughly a third of intermarried Jews who are raising children say they aren’t raising them Jewish. Only 19 percent of American Jews said that observing Jewish law was an essential part of what being Jewish means. (In contrast, 42 percent said “having a good sense of humor” was essential.)”