You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share

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.

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share

There are a few uncircumcised Israeli boys, born since 1990 or so to secular parents. There is organised opposition to brit milah. Most Israeli men born in the Soviet Block and who have immigrated to Israel in the past 35 years or so, have declined to have a belated bris. Bris is in conflict with the sexual sophistication of secular Israel.

Not long ago I came across a piece on the web that reported that the one constant Jewish religious practice throughout Israeli society, regardless of the level of religious belief, was the custom of circumcising newborn male children. According to this report, even the so-called 'secular' Jews of Israel opted for circumcision.

I am quite prepared to believe the circumcision is not terrible. I was circumcised, I enjoy sex, and feel, overall, like a normal, not-particularly-neurotic person. For all that, I do have trouble understanding why ritual mutilation is still a usual part of Jewish practice. Thank you for bringing this up.

Subscribe to Jewish Women, Amplified and get notifications sent to your email.

How to cite this page

Rosenbaum, Judith. "The "bris-less" bris." 20 July 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 15, 2019) <>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

The JWA Podcast

listen now


How do you prefer your latkes?

Sign Up for JWA eNews



1 hour
Looking for bangers by Jewish ladies? We have a playlist for that. 🎧😉🎶
3 hr
“Where are you thinking about going to college?” is a question high schoolers are often asked. But shouldn't the qu…