Bintel Blog

In New Memoir, Chabon Skewers Circumcision

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

  • Print
  • Share Share

The best-selling, Pulitzer-winning, famously Jewish author, Michael Chabon, is ready to tell us how he really feels about a particular halakhic ritual.

Page Six reports that in Chabon’s forthcoming memoir, “Manhood for Amateurs,” the author passionately indicts the practice of circumcision, writing:

Mutilation [is] the only honest name for this raw act that my wife and I have twice invited men with knives to come into our house and perform, in the presence of all our friends and family, with a nice buffet and Weekend Cake from Just Desserts.

More than one male author has written recently about the difficulty of watching sons go under the knife. Sam Apple interviewed many mohels before hiring one to perform his son’s circumcision. When the big moment came, Apple admits turning away. Chabon also shopped for a mohel match, but said that pro-circumcision arguments are “debatable at best.”

He has two circumcised sons.



Comments
Joseph Waldman Thu. Jul 30, 2009

The old joke goes . . . why do us Yids circumcise? We'll take ten percent off the top of *anything*.

Herbert Kaine Wed. Aug 12, 2009

I'll bet Mr Chabon doesnt have a problem with female circumcision because it is practiced by real religions, unlike Judaism. I challenge Mr Chabon to try to graft a foreskin back onto himself, and take transplant drugs daily to prevent the foreskin from being rejected by his immune system

Seth Gordon Thu. Sep 24, 2009

Do you believe in God, and do you believe that God established a Covenant with a man in the Middle East about 4000 years ago, and do you believe that you descend from that man or from a halachic conversion to Judaism? If your answer to any of the above is anything but an unqualified yes, we should let our sons decide for themselves sometime between their 18th birthdays and their wedding days.

When an adult man asks to have a bris, that is a powerful gesture of faith, of belief in the Torah, and of fidelity to the Jewish people and tradition. To circumcise a week old baby is none of these. Another thing, when it's done to an adult, there is always a prior injection of lidocaine.

We Jews are growing more secular, not less. More of us are marrying gentiles, not fewer. Bris is on a collision course with Jewish sexual sophistication; Freud did not circumcise his sons. We embrace sexual pleasure more warmly than do Christians and Moslems. More and more people are attracted to nonviolence as a norm for dealing with children.

Most of us believe in sending our children to public schools. Most of us believe in sex education in public schools. We accept physical education and sports as a normal youth activity. What I say in this paragraph gives rise to no embarrassment for us Jews when middle class Gentiles are pretty much all circumcised, as has been the case in the USA for several generations. But over the past 30 years, secular opinion has moved away from circumcision. There is a fair chance that over the next 30-50 years, American gentiles will stop circumcising. Which means that the day will come when the circumcised Jew will become a proverbial sore thumb in the American locker room. Many European Jewish families have dealt with this dilemma by, at various times over the past 150 years, abandoning bris without fanfare. Many American Jews will do likewise.

The fundamental problem I have with circumcision serving as a permanent marker of Jewishness is that Moslems adopted the custom. For me, that spoils it.

Lennie Bruce would say that in exchange for some pain and giving up a little erotic pleasure, G-d promised to look after the Jews. I take the Holocaust as evidence that G-d did not uphold his part of the bargain, so that Jewish parents are free to see bris as optional.

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.