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Sunday, December 30, 2007

In U.S., mohels are giving non-Jewish babies a slice of tradition

When his son was born, Reverend Louis DeCaro Jr. was dismayed to learn that none of the doctors on call at Manhattan's Allen Pavilion hospital had time to perform the circumcision. At a loss, the DeCaros turned for advice to their Manhattan pediatrician, Andrew Mutnick, who offered a simple solution: Hire a Jewish ritual circumciser, known as a mohel.

Mutnick put the family in touch with Cantor Philip Sherman, an Orthodox mohel working in the tri-state area. Sherman says he has performed more than 18,000 circumcisions in his 30-year career. There were no piles of bagels and lox waiting in the next room, no family members on hand to celebrate, but the DeCaros developed an admiration for the ancient tradition informing Sherman's work.

"When [a circumcision] is done by a mohel, you appreciate the gravity, the beauty of the religious connotations," DeCaro said in an interview with the Forward.

Although commonly recognized as performers of the brith milah, or Jewish circumcision, an increasing number of mohels are finding themselves handling the rituals for non-Jewish babies (even when, as in the DeCaros' case, the father happens to be an ordained minister). Sherman, 51, may be one of the most prolific circumcisers in the tri-state area, but others - including Emily Blake in New York and Joel Shoulson in Philadelphia - have also found their services called upon by non-Jewish families. While it's not clear exactly how many mohels offer nonritual circumcisions, the practice is, according to Shoulson - an Orthodox-trained mohel who has circumcised Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists and Hindus during his 50-year career - very widespread.

"Almost everybody else does it," he said.

According to Blake and Shoulson, non-Jews make up between two and five percent of their clientele. Some, like the DeCaros, are motivated initially by practical circumstances, but others seem drawn to the mohels for spiritual reasons, if not explicitly religious ones. Both Blake and Sherman have even been approached by "Torah-observant Christians" - those dedicated to observing Old Testament commandments - seeking to have their sons circumcised on the eighth day after the birth. In all cases, families say they are drawn to the intimacy and convenience of a nonritual circumcision performed at home.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/939774.html

Comments:
A female mohel? cutting non Jewish babies is hardly a slice of tradition. It's a much of a tradition as pastrami on white with mayo.

 

i hope he didn't do metzitzah b'peh!

 

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