The "bris-less" bris
An article in this week's Forward describes the growing opposition to circumcision among American Jews, and the development of “bris-less” bris rituals. Although circumcision is generally considered a pretty elemental aspect of Jewish practice and identity for males, this story certainly wasn’t surprising to me. I’ve had many debates with Jewish friends about this issue, and struggled with the decision of whether to circumcise my son (we did, and I cried through the whole thing). None of my non-Jewish friends who have little boys have chosen to circumcise them. But what I found most interesting about this anti-circumcision trend is the fact that it has caused the rise of interest in and creativity around the bris ritual. Thanks to feminism, for the past 30-odd years American Jews have put a lot of creative energy into baby naming ceremonies for girls, in an effort to develop a meaningful ritual parallel to the bris (but without the blood). Bris ceremonies, however, have remained remarkably unchanged, seemingly ossified in their ritual solemnity. When we were planning for the birth of our twins (a boy and a girl) last fall, my husband and I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of ceremony we wanted to create to welcome them into our community. We were struck by the almost overwhelming freedom and beautiful options for a baby naming ceremony for our daughter, while we came across fewer creative options for boys. For the first time, I thought about how freeing it is NOT to have a long ritual history to a particular tradition. And, as always, I felt very grateful to Jewish feminists who came before us and empowered us to create a personally meaningful ritual for our children. I’m glad to see that this feminist impulse has moved onto the next frontier – adding creative juice to traditional rituals for boys.