The Circumcision Episode

Ep. 171: From mohels to royals, covenants to controversy, an in-depth look at the Jewish practice of brit milah

February 28, 2019

This week on Unorthodox, we’ve got a special episode dedicated to circumcision and the Jewish mitzvah known as the brit, or bris, that signifies entry into the tribe for 8-day-old Jewish males.

We talk to Dr. Emily Blake, the mohel who performed Mark’s son’s bris, about why this biblical practice has remained so central to the Jewish experience, even among the nonobservant. The folks at BimBam explain Lech Lecha, the parsha in which Abraham and God enter into the covenant that defines the Jewish people. Hayim Leiter, a rabbi and mohel in Jerusalem, tells us about Safer HaBrit, his organization that provides circumcision resources and advocates against the controversial practice known as metzitzah b’peh. Sara Fredman Aeder tells us about approaching Jewish circumcision from a scholarly perspective and, later, a personal one, and Lizzie Skurnick shares her experience weighing circumcision as a single mother by choice. Producer Noah Levinson talks with Australian medical historian Dr. Robert Darby about the speculation surrounding the British royal family’s possible circumcisions, including the role of the “royal mohel.” And finally, Cristian Uriostegui tells the story of getting circumcised his junior year in college,

The BimBam explainer was read by Emily Shapiro Katz, a Jewish educator in Beer Sheva, Israel; you can watch the animated version at

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The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List comes out March 19! Featuring the biggest names in food—Jewish and not—and recipes for some of the most beloved, polarizing, and enduring Jewish foods, it’s the perfect gift to bring to this year’s Passover seder. Preorder your copy today and you could win a $150 gift card to Russ & Daughters: To enter, forward a copy of your receipt or confirmation to [email protected].

Unorthodox is a smart, fresh, fun weekly take on Jewish news and culture hosted by Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick, and Liel Leibovitz. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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