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A Circumcision Activist Is Born

Beyond the Bris - June 11, 2016 - 8:25am
By Nicole Katz-Lahey
I've always been an extremely passionate person. When I was a kid my passions were sports and animals. If I did something, I did it with every inch of my being. I'm now a mother of three and, true to my personality, I have to be the best mother I have it in me to be.


When I was pregnant for the first time, my mom asked me if it was a boy can we plan a bris. I replied with "No" but that we could just do the baby naming part at home. She was a little concerned and asked if we would circumcise him. I let her know that I wanted it done in a hospital. I didn't want to be stressed out or upset on the day that I was to be celebrating my child. 
See, even before I started questioning anything, I inherently knew that having my baby circumcised would be extremely painful for the both of us, but obviously more for my precious new perfect baby. So instead of saying, "No he wont be circumcised," I decided to separate the party from the act of genital cutting. I didn't realize that I had an option—and I said every superficial stupid thing to myself about why it had to be done.

A few of my thoughts back then: He has to look like his dad. He will get made fun of. He will not be able to clean himself properly. He will have trouble finding a partner. He will thank me later when he is an adult. I am Jewish. It is medically necessary. Well thank you god for blessing me with a beautiful baby GIRL at this time in my life.

Twelve months later we were expecting again and we learned we were having a boy. Immediately the thought of circumcision came back to me. I remembered my cousin’s bris. I remembered wine being put on a cloth and given to him to suck on. I remembered my grandfather holding his legs down. I remembered the look on my aunt’s face. She was visibly upset and shaken. The day didn't seem like a celebration of a new life, but something else. Something was wrong here. Every single woman in attendance had a twisted look of horror on her face during the cutting. After, it was bagels and lox and everyone was all happy again.

By the time I learned I'd be having a son, I had met many mothers who kept their sons intact and I was open to hearing why they chose not to circumcise. I started researching, except I didn't really have to. It took me 2 minutes into one video ("Child Circumcision: An Elephant in the Hospital" by Ryan McAllister, Ph.D.) to realize something I had known all along—circumcision is wrong. 

I started obsessively posting my findings on my Facebook wall. I lost many friends and sparked many arguments from those who had their sons cut years earlier. Little did I know my husband Stephen would be reading these. I was shocked since he isn't much of a social media guy. One day I approached him and said, "I picked out his name want to hear it oh and we aren't circumcising him." He replied, "Okay I figured." He told me he had been reading the articles I posted and that he agreed with everything.

Now to tell my family. I gently gave them articles to read and we openly discussed every aspect of the argument. It wasn't that I needed my parents approval not to cut my sons penis, it was that I wanted them to understand, I wanted them to see what I saw; genital cutting for any reason is wrong. They both easily saw the light and would later be in my corner for any argument that arose, and of course it did.

Gunnar was born at home in a birth tub in my bedroom. He was beautiful and amazing. The phone calls started coming, when is the bris? What can we bring? I had to tell family friends that there wouldn't be one. I heard many responses: "He will give HIV to everyone." "He will get made fun of." "He won't be considered Jewish." These comments didn't hurt or concern me. I had armed myself with education, confidence, and a beautiful baby boy.

But the ignorant comments sparked something inside of me. It ignited a fire in me to protect baby boys. When I say protect baby boys I mean it turned me into an activist, or intactivist if you will. I had to stop this barbaric procedure from being legal in the United States. I could no longer remain quiet.

So many little boys die every year because of this procedure. They are maimed for life; left with a scarred or minimally functioning penis. I almost did this to my son. How could I have believed all of the lies I had been fed for years believing that this is okay, normal, and just a part of being a boy? I wanted my son to have all of the sexual pleasure god and nature had given him. I wanted him to be able to pee for the rest of his life without a scar staring back at him, or even worse complications. Just like a tattoo, or a body piercing, I felt circumcision was a body modification that only he should choose, if he really wanted to, as an adult.

I was bat mitzvah'd at the age of 13, I studied the torah and attended temple regularly growing up. My father was raised Orthodox and grew up in a very orthodox town. 
Stephen and I researched brit shalom for Gunnar, he was welcomed into the Jewish faith without ritual genital cutting. We named him Gidon, said a few prayers, dunked him in water, and ate a good meal. Do people consider Gunnar Jewish? Absolutely, you are Jewish if you are born to a Jewish mother, no matter what you do. So yes, my son and his whole penis are Jewish. I respect religion; however, my religious practices end where my son’s body begins.

My passion took me to Manhattan exactly two weeks after my third child (my second daugher) Jagger was born. My mother, my best friend and I protested circumcision in Times Square with the Bloodstained Men. It was such an eye opening experience, one that I hope to have many more times throughout my life.

Nicole Katz-Lahey is 29 year old Long Island Native, wife, and mother. Her passions include her natural parenting and family blog, photography, volunteer firefighting, and kids fashion. Follow her on Instagram @ready.set.chaos.
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Jewish Doula Educates on Normalcy of Foreskin

Beyond the Bris - June 4, 2016 - 8:23am
By LO MARET

I grew up in a secular Jewish family. Like many Jewish families where religion is not the focus, we still observed some traditions, like the High Holidays. However, as a young girl, I began questioning all forms of organized religion and this is perhaps the first step I took in choosing to leave my son intact.

When my son was born 25 years ago, I remained single. My son’s father was not involved in his life when he was young, so I did not have to contend with someone who might have had different ideas about circumcision. All of the decisions regarding my son’s care were mine alone. That certainly made it much easier for me to say no to circumcision. Now my son and his dad have a wonderful, close relationship.

When my son was born, I didn’t know what I do now about the brutality of genital cutting. I’d never attended a bris and little valuable information was available to the public about circumcision. This was before the Internet exploded with information. I just felt that circumcision was unnecessary despite having heard that it was something that all boys needed to have done, especially if Jewish.

My son was born at a birthing center in New York City. The center performed circumcisions but the midwives never pushed it. Indeed, when I brought my newborn in for his seven-day-old checkup, the midwife asked if I would be circumcising that day. When I said “No,” she put her hand over mine and said “Good!” She told me how traumatic and unnecessary it was. At that moment, I realized what I had really protected my son from.

My Jewish mother was surprised when she learned that my son would remain intact but once she realized my mind was made up, she accepted it quite easily and never said another word about it. I got the feeling that after witnessing her son’s circumcision (my brother) that my mother was actually relieved that her grandson would not have to endure this. She never said this to me, but it’s something I’ve always felt. She adored her grandson.

Growing up in New York City, my son’s friends came from many cultures, ethnicities and religious backgrounds so quite a few of his peers were also intact. My son did not experience any of the problems—physically, mentally, emotionally—that scare parents into circumcising. It was no big deal. Today, as an adult, he’s grateful that he was spared the trauma. He’s in a happy relationship and, to my knowledge, has never been ostracized in any way due to being intact.


I chose to birth my son in a birthing center because I wanted to avoid the unnecessary interventions that are so common in standard hospital births. I had an empowering and exquisite birth. It was completely natural; drug and surgery free; calm, peaceful and surrounded by my tribe of women friends and family.
After experiencing firsthand how childbirth could and should be, and knowing that most women are quite capable of experiencing birth in this way, I began to think about how I might be able to be of service to birthing women. Doulas were relatively unknown at the time so I didn’t choose that path. But I knew that what contributed to my amazing birth experience was how safe I felt, and that feeling supported and loved is what contributed to that feeling of safety and ultimately resulted in a wonderful birth.

In 2002, I moved to Colorado and began working for a home visitation organization. I visit with new mothers and babies in their homes and help them with all aspects of newborn care, early maternal/infant bonding and breastfeeding. I’ve been with this organization for 13 years and while serving these women, my interest in childbirth was renewed. I began my journey of becoming a certified birth doula. Through my doula work with expectant couples I also provide education about the trauma of genital cutting and the purposes and normalcy of the foreskin.

Like all Jewish mothers who say no to genital cutting, my journey has been unique and mine alone. I did not have to face many of the more common religious and cultural pressures, or the expectations that exist within some families. At the same time, wanting to do the best for one’s child and protect them from harm is something all loving mothers can relate to. I hope that in learning about my journey, others will have the confidence to follow their hearts.

Lo Maret was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, and became a certified birth doula in 2004 and a certified lactation counselor in 2008. She works for The Family Visitor Program, a non-profit home visitation organization serving new mothers and their children. In her spare time, she enjoys all aspects of living in the beautiful Colorado mountains.
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Upcoming Temple Sinai Event for Celebrating Brit Shalom

Beyond the Bris - April 30, 2016 - 9:36am
The oldest Jewish congregation in the East San Francisco Bay region, founded in 1875, will host a groundbreaking discussion surrounding the choice to skip circumcision by Jewishly observant families. The Reform synagogue, Temple Sinai of Oakland California, has a long history of welcoming Jews of all stripes. They recently added language to their website indicating the Temple offers naming ceremonies for non-circumcising Jewish families. 

Lisa Braver Moss, a longtime congregant of Temple Sinai, and co-author of the book Celebrating Brit Shalom (the first-ever book written specifically for Jewish families choosing not to circumcise) will speak following an introduction by Rabbi Mates-Muchin. Music from the book, Songs for Celebrating Brit Shalom, will also be performed by the composer Reuben Moss, who is Lisa's son. 

"Rebecca [Wald] and I realized there was no comprehensive resource out there for Jewish families questioning circumcision or opting out," Lisa recently told the Peidmonter. "We wanted these families to have ready access to ceremonies that reflect their spiritituality and affirm their connection with the Jewish people."

The event will take place on Sunday, May 1, at 1PM at Temple Sinai, in Oakland California. The community is invited and encouraged to attend. Temple affiliation, or Jewish background, is not required and the book talk and musical presentation are free of charge. 
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THE ECONOMIST: Against the Cut, The intactivist movement takes on the oldest surgery known to man

Male Circumcision and HIV - July 14, 2013 - 3:18pm
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a magazine with its origins in Britain, a largely intact country, would take a sober and objective look at the San Francisco circumcision ballot measure. The Economist correctly concludes, “Whatever the fate of his proposed … Continue reading →
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ZIMBABWE: A familiar fear – one intervention at a time, likely the norm in HIV prevention

Male Circumcision and HIV - July 14, 2013 - 3:06pm
Many critics of the African circumcision trials drew the obvious conclusion that a push for male circumcision in Africa and elsewhere would result in a corresponding drop in condom use. In a partially useful risk reduction intervention, such a result … Continue reading →
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“Circumcise @Oprah” protest … Thank you, @GlenCallender

Male Circumcision and HIV - July 11, 2013 - 5:34pm
Glen Callender loves his foreskin. I love the size of his balls. Wow! Thanks, Glen, for sticking it to The Woman!
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OPINION: Intactivism, Anti-Semitism, and Foreskin Man

Male Circumcision and HIV - July 11, 2013 - 4:41pm
Growing up in Texas, the only Jews I knew lived in the Bible. As far as I could understand, circumcised boys were all my fundamentalist and not so fundamentalist Christian friends. Intact boys were foreigners or the kids who spoke … Continue reading →
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SWAZILAND: Mass HIV infection, shortage of medical personnel, and now false hope

Male Circumcision and HIV - July 11, 2013 - 4:06pm
In a nation where the HIV infection rate is said to be nearing 50%, people are desperate. Getting sick with wholly curable diseases can be life-threatening. Getting HIV is a short-order yet slowly unfolding death sentence. It may take 10 … Continue reading →
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GENITAL CUTTING: Geese get equal treatment in Africa at Dr. Piot’s urging

Male Circumcision and HIV - July 11, 2013 - 3:46pm
When the Kenyan and Ugandan studies were announced linking lower HIV infection risk with male circumcision, many sober voices immediately called for safe and consensual procedures by trained clinicians instead of those provided in the wild by folk doctors, if … Continue reading →
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Change

Male Circumcision and HIV - July 10, 2013 - 2:49pm
This blog, Male Circumcision and HIV, is going on hiatus indefinitely. The way the world interacts on issues of public health and culture is changing. This blog was started before twitter and facebook and the social revolution that characterizes online … Continue reading →
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DENMARK: Circumcision associated with sexual dysfunction in men and women

Male Circumcision and HIV - July 10, 2013 - 2:23pm
UPDATE: Download paper here. Int J Epidemiol. 2011 Jun 14. [Epub ahead of print] Male circumcision and sexual function in men and women: a survey-based, cross-sectional study in Denmark. Frisch M, Lindholm M, Grønbæk M. Source Department of Epidemiology Research, Statens … Continue reading →
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Change Again

Male Circumcision and HIV - July 10, 2013 - 1:57pm
I’m starting a “best of” effort to import old posts from typepad.com. Scroll down for posts in the order they were originally published.
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CNN’s “The Debate” asks, Should teens make circumcision decision?

Male Circumcision and HIV - July 10, 2013 - 12:14pm
Given a choice between the occasional teen obsessing over getting circumcised and a majority of parents obsessing over doing the circumcising for said teens before they are of an age to raise a ruckus, the former seems far preferable. This … Continue reading →
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