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To Bris or Not to Bris

‘New York’ mag considers the question, comprehensively

Hadara Graubart
October 19, 2009

It seems New York magazine got the memo about Jewish Body Week—it features a full rundown on circumcision in the new issue. An article on the “shift away from circumcision” as a standard practice for American baby boys credits the change to activists as well as some more provocative factors: “As more U.S. women have sex with foreign-born men, the American perception of the uncut penis as exotic has begun to fade. The decline in the number of practicing Jews contributes as well.” An illustrated breakdown of the procedure itself gets, ahem, straight to the point. If that scares you off, there’s an option for Jews who don’t want to do the deed to their sons, but still want to welcome them into the religion: the Brit Shalom, a male equivalent to the naming ceremony traditionally held for baby girls. It’s an idea that might appeal to two regretful Jews who circumcised their boys: Michael Chabon, who says he considers the act “mutilation,” and Shalom Auslander, who says you might as well “[w]ait eight days, invite the family over, put out some wine and kugel, and just punch him in the fucking face.” But don’t fret if you’ve already sliced your son—a man who was cut as an adult mentions a little-known virtue of the procedure: “I always used to beg out of oral sex.… It was too much sensation, too intense. After the circumcision, oral sex became a whole lot easier.” And should you decide to go for it, in typical New York mag style, the spread includes a listing of recommended local mohels.

Of course, Tablet Magazine hasn’t slacked in covering the topic. We spoke to Melvin Konner, author of Nextbook Press’s The Jewish Body, about the history of the bris and also to an Orthodox documentarian who took a critical look at the procedure and came down against it. Plus, a father wrote about his unconventional search for a significant place to lay his son’s disembodied foreskin to rest.

Hadara Graubart was formerly a writer and editor for Tablet Magazine.