Bintel Blog

In New Memoir, Chabon Skewers Circumcision

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

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.

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Michael J. Fox Cuts In on the Circumcision Debate

By Eleanor Goldberg

“Whose penis? Whose body? Whose rights?” read one sign. “You Want to Cut Off WHAT?” read another.

These were a couple of the slogans of the approximately 50 demonstrators at 16th annual rally in favor of making male circumcision illegal. Held to commemorate Genital Integrity Awareness Week and the 12th anniversary of Congress’s ban of female genital mutilation, the protesters gathered in front of the White House this week to urge Congress to pass a bill banning circumcision or what they call “male genital mutilation.”

The leaders of the pack, 21-year-olds Jason Siegel and Zachary Levi Balakoff, were on day three of their hunger strike and attribute their convictions to the “the ‘giant monstrosity’ of circumcision that ‘envelops’ their entire lives,” The Washington Post reported.

Brian J. Morris, professor of molecular medical sciences at the University of Sydney thinks the group’s philosophy is inherently flawed. “Only deception by their propaganda leads some gullible men into believing that their sexual problems have something to do with their circumcision as an infant,” he told the Washington Post.

Michael J. Fox recently cut in on the discussion, favoring his son getting the procedure over with as soon as possible. “To me it was very clear [he should be circumcised],” Fox writes in his memoir, “Always Looking Up.” He told his Jewish-born wife, Tracy Pollan: “If the doctor does it now … I’ll look [Sam] in the eye and give him someone to scream at. But if in 13 years, if he decides he wants to have a bar mitzvah and he isn’t circumcised, then you are going to be in that room with him. I’m going to Vegas.”

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James Bond Promotes Circumcision

By Nathan Burstein

James Bond wants to help more men get circumcised, and he’s gone to a part of the world where they’re into that sort of thing.

Former 007 actor Roger Moore is in Israel this week, where he expects to raise $5,000 for efforts to circumcise more men as part of AIDS-prevention efforts in Swaziland. The “Moonraker” and “Octopussy” star attended the Eilat Chamber Music Festival today as part of a fund-raising campaign that will allow Israeli doctors to train Swazis to perform circumcisions. Studies have show that circumcision helps reduce the spread of HIV.

“Who better than Jewish and Muslim doctors [from Israel] to carry out this procedure? Because they do it by the thousands,” the Associated Press quoted Moore as saying.

As many as one-fifth of all Swazis are HIV-positive, according to a 2005 UNICEF estimate. The actor has served as a goodwill ambassador for the organization since 1991. While in Israel, Moore also hoped to meet with his friend and fellow actor Haim Topol, an Oscar nominee for playing Tevye in 1971 film “Fiddler on the Roof.” The pair co-starred a decade later in the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only.”

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Adventures in Moheling

By Daniel Treiman

Max Mintz shares some fun anecdotes about his work as a traveling mohel with Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice:

One of his strangest experiences occurred earlier this year, when he was invited to a brit milah in Tulsa, Okla. “When I arrived in Tulsa, my bags did not arrive with me, which was not good, since I can’t take knives on a plane,” he explained.

“The people at Southwest Airlines found my bags in Houston, and offered to put them on the next plane to Tulsa,” Mintz explained. “However, it wasn’t going to be possible to wait for my instruments to arrive, perform the bris and then get back to the airport in time for my plane back to Houston.

“There was a chapel at the airport, which they agreed to let us use,” the mohel explained, “and they managed to get my bags to me on the next plane. In the interim, we transferred people from the synagogue to the airport; I performed the circumcision in the airport chapel; they had brought food for the seudat mitzvah [mitzvah feast]; and there was enough time left for me to get on the last plane to Houston.”

The full article is here.


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A Cut Above the Rest: In Search of the Perfect Mohel

By Daniel Treiman

Sam Apple, author of the delightful “Schlepping Through the Alps: My Search for Austria’s Jewish Past With Its Last Wandering Shepherd,” has just published a hilarious essay on the Los Angeles Times Web site about his search for a mohel to circumcise his son. The setup:

I did not want just anyone to cut my son’s penis. I wanted the best. And so when my wife, Jennifer, neared the end of her pregnancy, I decided to interview mohels.

I had good reason to be nervous about ritual circumcisers. In 2004, three New York babies contracted herpes from a mohel, who, in keeping with an ultra-Orthodox Jewish tradition, used his mouth to draw blood from the wound. I had no intention of letting a mohel — or anyone else for that matter — put his mouth on my newborn son’s genitals, but the moral of the story was clear enough: If you’re going to chop off part of someone’s penis without asking permission, you’d better choose your chopper with care.

The full article is here.

The essay is a finalist in the “Be Joel Stein” contest run by the L.A. Times columnist of the same name. You can vote for your favorite (i.e. Sam Apple’s essay) here.

Full Disclosure: Sam’s a good friend of mine (but don’t hold that against him). I was even at his son’s bris.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Circumcision, Sam Apple




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