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June 20, 2011 2:59 pm

Are the Circumcision Opponents Anti-Semitic?

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Minor protest in front of Washington Convention Center in connection with the American Association of Pediatricians annual meeting. Photo: dbking

The growing anti-Semitic images and caricatures associated with the attempt to ban circumcision in San Francisco are disturbing. These include the highly inflammatory “Foreskin Man” comic, depicting a superhero saving innocent boys from evil circumcisers, which the Jerusalem Post reported to have been produced by Matthew Hess, “one of the central backers of the anti-circumcision measures.”  Indeed, the attempt to ban circumcision in San Francisco smacks of a nefarious campaign on the part of the ban’s organizers to portray circumcision as genital mutilation that gives the lie that Judaism and Jewish practice would ever harm a child. I debated Lloyd Schofield, the main man behind the ban, on CNN. I later respectfully asked him to debate me in public where we would have more time and, after he penned a friendly email which curiously implied that there is not much difference between our two positions, he suddenly declined.

But if the case against circumcision is so clear-cut, and it is a grievous assault on a harmless infant, then why decline the debate? Perhaps it is because the organizers know that in any debate their attempt to correlate the excising of the male foreskin with female genital mutilation- a point they have repeatedly made – will be shown up to be a malicious and absurd lie. Female circumcision is all about removing a woman’s ability to enjoy marital relations and is a barbarous act of mutilation that has no corollary to its male counterpart. In my book Kosher Sex I demonstrated conclusively that Judaism celebrates the intimate bond between husband and wife and the attempts to malign circumcision as a method of restricting it are ignorant and biased.

San Francisco is supposed to be the city of live-and-let-live even as it now betrays a  curious attachment to circumcision, with its ludicrous attempt to punish its large Jewish community with a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail for simply honoring the oldest of all Jewish practices and rituals.

When I lived in Western Europe for 11 years it was common to hear attacks on circumcision and shechita coming together, as if there was some  correlation between the humane slaughtering of an animal with circumcision. Sweden has a reputation of being a pretty laid-back nation but it stiffens in the face of this Jewish tradition. In 2001 when it enacted a draconian law requiring a medical doctor or an anesthesia nurse to accompany a registered circumciser and for an anesthetic to be applied to a baby beforehand. Swedish Jews and Muslim banded together to object and the World Jewish Congress condemned the law as “the first legal restriction on Jewish religious practice in Europe since the Nazi era.”

All this, of course, belies the medical facts. Circumcision has been proven as the second most effective means to stop the transmission of HIV-AIDS, with the British Medical Journal reporting that circumcised men are 8 times less likely to contract the infection. Circumcision removes Langerhans cells with special receptors that may grant the virus access into the body.

Circumcision also significantly reduces the transmission of other STD’s like genital herpes and syphilis and also reduces the risk of urinary-tract infection, and men who are circumcised have 100 percent immunity from contracting penile cancer.

Male circumcision is much healthier for women, significantly reducing the risk of cervical cancer by at least twenty percent according to an article in the British Medical Journal in April 2002.

So why the effort to ban circumcision? Simple. Radical secularists for whom Judaism is a target of choice wish to portray religion as so barbarous that it excises any physical pleasure during marital relations, reducing copulation to a cold and sterile act of baby-making.

The lie that religion frowns on pleasurable intimacy is widespread. Judaism insists that physical relationships be accompanied by exhilaration and joy as a bonding experience that leads to emotional connection and intimacy.

Had Messrs. Schofield and Hess canvassed Jewish husbands and wives before they got the attempted circumcision ban on the ballot, they would have discovered that we Jews are doing just fine in the relations department and could really do without their bothersome assault on our ancient rituals and the privacy of our intimate relationships. Circumcised Jewish men are great lovers and I would strongly advise Schofield and Hess to keep their nose in their own business and maybe even read my other two books The Kosher Sutra and Kosher Adultery to receive some great Jewish advice, which might rescue them from their own repression that necessitates their peering into other people’s bedrooms.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the interational best-selling author of 25 books which have been translated into 17 languages and is currently working on “The Sexually Extinguished Wife.” Follow him Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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  • Bill

    The claim of anti-Semitism in response to any questioning of infant circumcision is a trick of the mind to avoid honestly exploring the issue.

    Godwin’s law applies.

    Most of the health claims for circumcision in this article are incorrect.

  • Openminded in Sweden

    Excuse me!

    In my post I wrote “….a medically educated person performing the ccn. has…. “. The medically educated person doesn’t have to be the one performing the ccn. They are usually just there in the background to assist if anything happens like unexpected bleeding, allergic reactions and so on.

  • Openminded in Sweden

    The rule in Sweden about having a medically educated person performing the ccn. has nothing to do with limitation of religious freedom. The purpose is to make sure that the surgery is performed in the safest possible way concerning for example sterility, anesthesia and routine and knowledge of the person performong the ccn. It was actualised after a rare but horrible case, that got a lot of attention in media, where the poor boy was mutilated for life. The old amateur used unsterile instruments, cut to deep, due to bad vision and lack of skill in performing a ccn. The boy suffered a lot of bleeding and a severe infection. The performer told the first born boy’s parents that this was perfectly normal and when they eventually arrived at the hospital the boy was in septic shock and his penis was gangrenous and had to be amputated.
    I think the family in this specific case was muslim but the law about ccn.s doesn’t have anything with religion to do. It’s for medical safety only and is alike for all inhabitants in Sweden.

  • A variety of Jewish and Israeli groups are working to abolish circumcision also.

    Gonnen: Protect the Child (in Hebrew)

    Kahal: Giving Up Brit Milah (in Hebrew and English)

    Beyond the Bris: A Jewish Intactivist Blog

    Jews Against Circumcision

    Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective

  • Growing number? You exaggerate your claim. As far as I know, there is only ONE example of an anti-Semitic caracature being debated.

    Religions change. Take for instance the Jewish insistance to cut off the end of their baby boys’ penises. Some scholars believe that the passages in the Torah/OT concerning circumcision were added by Jewish priests as yet another way to fill their purses.

    After the Jewish Revolt abandonment of this new rite was discussed, but rejected. It was later seriously discussed during the Reform period. Circumcision is unheard of in South American Jews, and there are intact Jewish communities in Israel. So the covenant might not be as sacrosanct as it seems at first glance.

    Now, it is being reconsidered in San Fancisco. There are many secular and Reform Jews who support the proposed ban. Naturally, their orthodox brethren say they are “self-hating,” But I suspect they consider themselves the opposite and want to protect Jewish baby boys from harm.

    An excellent book on this is from Leonard Glich, Jewish physician and anthropologist, “Marked in Your Flesh,” Oxford, 2005.

  • NZG, L.A., CA

    K Shmueli – we got your ‘point’ – the innuendo and even racey remarks best be left out. Otherwise, what you say is ok.