Sisterhood Blog

For Convert and Mother-to-Be, Bris Is Ultimate Measure of Commitment

By Rebecca Dube

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How do you measure commitment? That’s the question I was left pondering after reading Elana Sztokman’s post on the double standard for Orthodox women. Some women’s tardiness for services has become a justification for shutting out the entire gender from a whole host of responsibilities, as late arrival to shul apparently signifies a lack of spiritual commitment.

Now, I converted to Judaism earlier this month, and as a Reform Jew-come-lately I don’t expect my two cents to count very much in this larger and very important debate about women’s roles in Orthodox Judaism.

But my thoughts immediately turned to a conversation I recently had with a fellow conversion student who, like me, is pregnant with her first child. As soon as we established that we’re both expecting boys, we exchanged a meaningful glance.

“So are you doing the…” she began.

“Yup,” I said. “Definitely.”

“Me too,” she said, her voice low and serious.

We could only be talking about one thing: Circumcision. It’s not a decision that any mother can make lightly or easily, I think, and especially not a recent convert.

Marrying a Jewish man? Sure, that’s a commitment. Studying for a year with a rabbi and converting to Judaism? That’s a commitment. Handing your eight-day-old son over to a near-stranger who will snip off a tender part of his anatomy in order to fulfill a covenant your newly adopted ancestors made with God thousands of years ago? That’s an all-caps COMMITMENT, baby. No going back from that one.

Knowing how hard it will be to watch someone take a knife to my precious little baby (however skillfully, however gently), I have to laugh at anyone who questions an Orthodox woman’s commitment to her faith. A mirthless, bitter laugh, but laugh nonetheless.

Have they seen the size of the average Orthodox woman’s family? Have these men taken a moment to consider who bears the burden of following the command to be fruitful and multiply? Would they question the commitment of Rachel Krishevsky, a Jerusalem woman and mother of 11 who passed away at the age of 99 earlier this month? Go ahead and take it up with the 1,400 descendants she gave to the world.

I understand that by emphasizing women’s role as mothers, I may be playing into the hands of those who seek to exclude women from holding positions of religious responsibility on the basis that a woman’s only source of spiritual authority is as a mother and caretaker. But if they’re going to claim the power to look into a woman’s heart and gauge her spiritual commitment, let’s be honest about what they’d find there.

Getting to shul on time? Serving as part of a minyan? Please. That’s nice and all, but perfecting the outward motions of an observant life is hardly proof of a pure heart.

Bearing and raising Jewish children? That, as I’m discovering first-hand, is a commitment.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Pregnancy, Circumcision, Bris

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Shalom Sat. Sep 26, 2009

You entirely miss the point of the arguments against women counting in a minyan, being Rabbis, and so on. No one ever said (that I'm aware of) that Jewish women aren't committed to G-d and His mitzvot; in fact, their serious commitment to doing their part is a large part of the reason that Traditional Jews see it as wrong. Thats why we are all taught ‘Sh'ma B'ni Musar Aveecha, V’al Teetosh Torat Eeme'cha’ which I am sure that every committed Jewish mother recognizes.

Yonatan Sun. Sep 27, 2009

Loved it! And still, I do wish women had the CHANCE to get more involved religiously, even without the need of deepening their commitment.

James Loewen Fri. Oct 2, 2009

Commitment? How about commitment to caring for your child's needs? Your child's first need is to establish trust with his mother. How can he do that when he's been handed to a stranger to have part of his penis cut off?

At the heart of circumcision is a cruel deception, an undermining of a woman's strongest instinct, to protect her precious child. Forced circumcision (genital cutting without consent) offers no benefits, although it has a history of specious medical claims. The harm done to the child and the permanent harm done to the bonding process with his mother should be all the motivation anyone needs to research this subject and learn what's needed to stop it.

I have a great deal of respect for those rational Jewish mothers and fathers who have looked closely at this issue and chosen to welcome their precious sons with a naming ceremony and NO circumcision. If a Jewish mother can be free of circumcising a child after two deaths then she should be free from this "commitment" without having to first loose two sons to circumcision.

Read Jewish physician and scholar Leonard Glick's book, "Marked In Your Flesh: Circumcision From Ancient Judea to Modern America" if you want to understand the real history behind what's going on when you hand your infant boy over for genital cutting. Read psychologist Ronald Goldman's insight into the psychological impetus to repeat the abuses of the previous generation. Google Alternative Bris to find support for raising Jewish boys with the genital violation.

James Loewen Fri. Oct 2, 2009

Those last lines should read:

Read psychologist Ronald books, "Circumcision The Hidden Trauma: How an American Cultural Practice Affects Infants and Ultimately Us All" and Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective for insight into the psychological impetus behind repeating the abuses of the past. Google Alternative Bris to find support for raising Jewish boys without the genital violation.

James Loewen Fri. Oct 2, 2009

Those last lines should read:

Read psychologist Ronald books, "Circumcision The Hidden Trauma: How an American Cultural Practice Affects Infants and Ultimately Us All" and Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective for insight into the psychological impetus behind repeating the abuses of the past. Google Alternative Bris to find support for raising Jewish boys without the genital violation.

edg Fri. Oct 9, 2009

If you were a Satanist and Satan commanded you to tattoo "666" on your daughter's thigh, would you do it?

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