The Day I Cut Off My Sons' Foreskins

It has been almost two years since I cut off the foreskins of my two sons.Noam and Jonah, my identical twins, are now singing "rubber duckie," feedingthemselves oatmeal, and re-arranging the porch furniture--a long way from thepreemie infants whom we welcomed into the world.

Why did I cut them? I knew that the procedure had been declared medicallyunnecessary. I knew that I was causing them pain. I had heard that the lackof a foreskin might diminish their sense of sexual pleasure. I say all this,and yet when I stood above my boys, scalpel in hand, I experienced anunparalleled sense of connection to and responsibility for life. The birthwas pure wonder. The circumcision was primal and mysterious, connecting meto flesh and blood in a violent and careful moment of father-love.

Since the cut, I've read or heard that my actions were "barbaric," "savage,"and "criminal." One host of a New York radio talk show called circumcision"child sexual abuse," a sentiment confirmed by my wife's favorite magazine,Mothering. In an interview I gave to Icon magazine, my positive opinion onthe subject was placed in the context of an article that promoted the ideathat circumcision kills babies. The worst was when a woman I met at abenefit dinner called what I did "torture."

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I'm not a doctor. I got the idea of doing the "final cut" from a friend ofmine in Philadelphia who did his sons. Here's how it was done--the moyel (ritual surgeon) sets up the procedure by using a scissors-like device thatslips between the penis shaft and the foreskin. Then the moyel places theforeskin into a stainless steel clamp. The clamp allows the father to removeit with a single cut of the scalpel. The whole procedure takes less than twominutes.

Cutting my firstborn son was harder than I thought it would be--not theemotional challenge, but the physical part, the actual slicing involved. Ittook more elbow grease than I had imagined. It was easier five minutes laterwith my second son. I think that explains why he urinates straighter thanhis brother.

So, am I a child abuser? Should I be locked up?

As a Jew, I am a member of a small tribe that has survived generations ofphysical abuse from the outside world--so I find it ironic that my peopleare seen as the abusers. Hitler, who engaged in the same anti-circumcisionrhetoric that I hear today, later enacted a government project tosystematically murder hundreds of thousands of infants and toddlers.

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Rabbi Daniel Silberman Brenner
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