Responding to both a growing anti-circumcision movement and her own hysteria surrounding the circumcision of her two sons, Hanna Rosin writes in the most recent New York Magazine about why the case for circumcision is good for everyone, at least all boys. Her arguments are interesting, but I am not sure they are correct.

I am Jewish enough that I never considered not circumcising my sons, (she writes). I did not search the web or call a panel of doctors to fact-check the health benefits, as a growing number of wary Americans now do. Despite my momentary panic, the words “genital mutilation” did not enter my head. But now that I have done my homework, I’m sure I would do it again–even if I were not Jewish, didn’t believe in ritual, and judged only by cold, secular science.

Rosin goes on to bring lots of compelling evidence about the health benefits, both personal and public, of circumcision, including reducing HIV/AIDS, multiple forms of cancer, etc. And on that basis tells us that she made her decision “only by cold, secular science”. But she also admits that she “never considered not circumcising her sons”. So which is it, a scientific conclusion or a declaration of faith and belonging? Of course, the answer is that the two are inextricably linked. As is the decision for those who choose not to circumcise their kids.

Rather than each side marshalling evidence to “prove” that which they already believe, I wonder if both those of us who favor circumcision and those who oppose it, could admit that either position is deeply rooted in things far bigger than cold, hard facts. We all want the very best for our kids and are trying to figure out how, from the very beginning of their lives to give it to them, and that is what makes this fight so intense.
Arguments about why to circumcise and why not to are as old as the second century BCE in Jewish tradition and may well pre-date the struggles about which we know from the time of the Maccabees. But even back then, it was a struggle between two groups each of whom wanted to do what they thought was right.

I wonder if instead of trying to answer that once and for all, each side in this often bitter debate simply asked what they could learn from those with whom they most deeply disagree. Could we in the traditional Jewish community re-open the debate about anesthesia? Could those who oppose circumcision reconsider the long-term known health benefits and how to achieve them if they continue to reject circumcision? Or address what it means to disconnect from the oldest known practice of the Jewish people?
Rather than one side screaming about other people being self-hating Jews, and that side screaming about the rest of us brutalizing our children, we could agree that we are each specialists in certain areas of concern and serve as each others teachers. I know that admitting that there is more than one right answer to such sensitive issues scares people, but shouldn’t it scare us more to hurt each other over those very issues?
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