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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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"Carmen Sandiego" Creative Muses About His Long-Lost Foreskin: An Interview With Sean Altman

Beyond the Bris - January 30, 2016 - 11:58am
Sean Altman uses satire and melody to spread the message that people of all         backgrounds should consider foregoing circumcision for their newborn sons.

“Moishe Pipik”—directly translated from the Yiddish this phrase means “Moses Bellybutton.” It’s an illusive, archaic, Jewish expression that might be used to describe a prankster, one who pushes the boundaries of acceptable mischief. Sean Altman is a modern-day Moishe Pipik, a contrasting player of wisdom (Moses) and humor (bellybutton), with a voice as rich, silky and complex as a Jewish grandma’s chicken soup broth.
I stumbled upon Altman’s work because his hilarious new music video “Phantom Foreskin” is making rounds among my Facebook friends. I quickly learned that Altman isn’t just another guy singing parodies. He’s an accomplished vocalist, lyricist and satirist who gained widespread attention as the founder of Rockapella. That’s the pioneer acapella group and vocal house band featured on the 1990s hit PBS show “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” Altman wrote and sang the iconic theme song.
Currently, Altman is the creative mind and voice behind JEWMONGOUS, an original comedy song concert that takes an irreverent look at all things Jewish. He also leads The GrooveBarbers, hailed by The Village Voice as “acapella rock and soul royalty.” Lesser known are two of Altman’s phenomenal lyric videos, “Follow Me to Heaven” and “Know Me.” Both are singles from his forthcoming, non-comedic album SALT. “Know Me” is a haunting tune in which Altman claims he wants you to know him but then devilishly turns the tables. After hearing that song, I yearned to find out more. Fortunately, Sean Altman was happy to oblige.
Rebecca:  I love Jewish humor and would even say it’s high art. What is it about Jewish comedy that you find so appealing?  
Sean:  My comedy song act JEWMONGOUS is my own quirky way of connecting with my ancestry. As a proud, secular Jew I take tremendous pride in the Tribe’s achievements and values.  I long to feel like I’m a contributing member of the team, but I have no interest in praying to a deity I don’t believe in. I’m an observant Jew in that I like to observe other Jews. Thus I’ve channeled three things I love—singing, songwriting and joke telling—into a project that explores my people’s idiosyncratic nature, in comedic song. There’s also an obvious nod to my funny Jewish forbears—everyone from Mel Brooks and Woody Allen to the brash Jewish comics of the last 15 years: Sacha Baron Cohen, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, Andy Samberg, et cetera.    
Rebecca: Any thoughts on why Jewish people have played such a large role in American comedy over the past century?
Sean: Although there’s nothing inherently funny about Judaism (ok, maybe strapping a box of tefillin to one’s head), I believe that the oppression that my people have suffered for thousands of years has engendered humor as a survival mechanism. When your village is ransacked, your house is confiscated by the government you trusted and your sister is getting molested by Cossacks, humor is one of the things that enables you to survive. It’s no accident that the two funniest and most comically influential ethnic groups in the USA—Jews and Blacks—have both suffered years of discrimination. Oppression clearly begets comedy!  
Rebecca: You’ve got an amazing voice. Was there a specific time in your childhood when you realized your talent for singing? Tell me about that. Do you have a long tradition of singers in your family?
Sean: My mom, my dad and my stepmom are all musical, and I’m grateful that they exposed me to folk, rock, classical, musical theater, calypso, pop and R&B. Regarding my awareness of my own abilities, I do recall singing in the back row of my first grade chorus in the Bronx and thinking “Hmm, there sure are a lot of kids here singing off key.” I’m the only member of my family who ever attempted a career as a performer, so in that way I’m the family maverick and the only one without good health insurance or a retirement plan.
Rebecca: Do you have a hard time keeping your material clean enough to have a wide appeal? Does this even factor into your creative process?
Sean: People regularly come up to me after a JEWMONGOUS concert and say “Wow, that was musically wonderful and hilarious and I’d love to present it at my synagogue. Do you have a clean version of the show?” Like I’m going to create an entirely alternate set of lyrics, replete with obsessive internal rhyming! As much as I hate to admit it I do have alternate clean (a.k.a. watered-down) lyrics for a few of the songs. I have several other “clean” music projects: The GrooveBarbers (acapella group), Doowopera (doowop mashed up with opera), The Everly Set(Everly Brothers tribute act) and my own Sean Altman repertoire of bittersweet originals and covers.
Rebecca: You’ve addressed the circumcision topic with some frequency in your songs. In your new video “Phantom Foreskin,” you sing a ballad to your long-lost flesh. Do you really wish that you hadn’t been circumcised or is the foreskin just something funny to joke about? Ever thought of (or tried) foreskin restoration?
Sean: “Foreskin restoration” sounds suspiciously like “vaginal rejuvenation.” With my luck, they’d get the skin color match wrong and I’d end up with a zebra-stripey penis.  When I was in Rockapella I used to joke that we were “available for your next wedding, bar mitzvah, bris or even ‘sirb’—the reverse process.” Who could have predicted that the miracle of modern medicine would make my futuristic sirb dream a reality?  In fact, I’m perfectly happy with my schvantz although—like most men—I wish it were three times its current size and could speak French. 
Rebecca: What about the movement that’s questioning circumcision? Where do you stand?
Sean: I’m pro-choice, squarely on the side of penile rights: I believe in every pecker’s God-given right to choose its own fate. Seriously, though, as much as I respect certain Jewish traditions, I’m grateful that the intactivist movement has made young parents of all religions aware of the leave-well-enough-alone option.
Rebecca:  You said somewhere that you chose S&M as your bar mitzvah theme. Were you kidding? I’ve always wondered about the lasting impact of circumcision on the male psyche. When extreme pain is the first experience a person has from their sex organs it can’t be good. Thoughts?
Sean: Indeed, the S&M-themed bar mitzvah is merely a joke, although the truly crappy food at my bar mitzvah did cause me great (albeit not sexual) humiliation. I agree; the pain of the snip can’t possibly be a happy memory, although—let’s face it—the anguish of being expelled from one’s impossibly cozy home of nine months into the chilled, fluorescent-lit air of a hospital room is probably no picnic either. 
Rebecca: As far as Jewish people opting out of circumcision, what’s your sense of the trend?

Sean: A few of my intermarried friends have opted out of circumcision for their boys, and I respect and applaud their decisions. I suspect that over the next hundred years the practice of circumcision may fade away along with other questionable Jewish traditions like answering a question with a question and gefilte fish. But wait, I’m now going to reveal what no one else has the chutzpah to admit, or maybe no one has thought of it. The intactivist movement’s single biggest, unutilized weapon is porn. It’s no secret that in spite of its myriad detractors, the porn industry is here to stay and grows more pervasive by the minute, driving technology in the process. The minute the most common porn image of the boner is uncircumcised is the minute the tide will begin to shift. You’re welcome, America.
For those in the Manhattan area, if youd like to see Sean Altman perform, his next live appearance will be Friday, February 12. Four of his projects will be on display in a variety series called “Out By 10,” which also features the NPR radio star Ophira Eisenberg.
Categories: External Blogs

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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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 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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