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Never Too Late For a Circumcision

Never Too Late For a Circumcision

To whom do the millions of adult Jewish males who never had a circumcision turn?


Let's say you are a 45-year-old Jewish man living in Israel after moving from Russia several years ago. You grew up without any Jewish education but remember that your grandfather wore a kippah and beard, prayed frequently and had these black boxes he would put on his head. Recently, you have been thinking a lot about him and began looking into your Jewish heritage.

You buy a book on Judaism at the corner book store. Over the next few weeks you read, learn, discover, and it feels strangely familiar. Then, like a flash, you realize that something has been missing all these years…a circumcision.

And you wouldn't be alone. You would be one of millions.

Called a Brit Milah in Hebrew ("covenant of circumcision"), it is the first mitzvah which Abraham, the first Jew, received from G‑d. Central and fundamental to Judaism, the brit represents the finishing touch that perfects our bodies. That it should be a human act demonstrates that spiritual perfection must and can be accomplished through human effort.

"The largest number of Close to one million Jews in the world never had a circumcision. uncircumcised Jews today are Russians who never had a chance to fulfill the mitzvah," says Rabbi Yaron Amit, founder and director of Brit Yosef Yitzchok, which has provided for over 33,000 adult circumcisions since opening in 1989. "Besides them, close to one million Jews in the world never had a circumcision, and then there are countless Jews who don't even know they are Jewish."

Brit Yosef Yitzchak is based in Israel and maintains branches around the world. It was founded by Amit when the Iron Curtain fell and hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews, previously forbidden to practice Judaism, began reclaiming their heritage.

"I was involved in some charity projects and a friend asked me to help raise money for seven circumcisions for newly arrived Jewish immigrants to Israel. I found the money and then they asked for help with another seven..." tells Amit.

"The number of immigrants requesting help with their own circumcisions was staggering. It was clear that world Jewry had a huge need in this area."

A father has the primary obligation of providing for his son's circumcision. When the father is either not present or fails to arrange for the circumcision, the Jewish community assumes responsibility. Once the child reaches Bar Mitzvah age, he becomes personally obligated to arrange his own circumcision.

Typically performed on an 8-day-old baby, a brit is a bit more complex for an adult, and most mohelim (trained ritual circumcisers) are inexperienced in the procedure. From start to finish, Brit Yosef Yitzchak handles outpatient hospital arrangements which include licensed doctors, expert mohelim, post-surgery care and family support professionals.

"The procedure itself is painless, though it takes time to recuperate. We make it into a party where they get a Jewish name and a chance to put on tefillin. They all walk out on their own and dance with us to celebrate."

Their work has touched thousands of lives, and they have the stories to prove it.

Last month a man called the office and received a circumcision. "For fifteen years I went back and forth over doing it. I would wake up in the morning, see on my dresser your ad that I had cut out, pick up the phone to dial and then hang up," he told the staff. "I finally said to myself, 'Either I do it now, or I'll go on for another fifteen years like this.'"

Six months ago An Israeli soldier from a Russian family took a two week leave to have his brit done. It ended a lifetime of pain, struggle and embarrassment. an Israeli soldier from a Russian family took a two week leave to have his brit done. It ended a lifetime of pain, struggle and embarrassment. "I never got a brit because my parents thought it was primitive and they wanted to spare me from it. But for as long as I can remember I was embarrassed in school, around my friends. I dreaded having to change before going swimming. Even recently, in the army, I made sure to be the last in the shower," he revealed at the celebratory meal after his circumcision.

Then an army friend of his suddenly and quietly took a two week leave. "He told me he had contacted Brit Yosef Yitzchak about getting a circumcision and was granted time off. I was still so embarrassed and told him I had a neighbor at home who would be interested and could he give me the number. I'm so glad I called."

Because this religious service is only for Jews, each participant's Jewish identity is thoroughly researched. Staff members check papers and investigate the family lineage, sometimes going as far back as three generations.

An immigrant student in Jerusalem wanted to have a brit but had no documentation or birth certificate to verify his Jewishness. His mother, however, has a 70 year old brother who lives in Ashkelon who had paperwork certifying the family's Jewish heritage. Initial requests for the documents were rejected. Many discussions later, the uncle accepted an invitation to come celebrate the brit and bring the paperwork. The documents were accepted and corroborated by further research.

At the procedure, the uncle revealed that he also never received a brit. "I saw a few people come out after having their circumcision done. They were so happy. I decided then and there to also get a brit."

Having a brit, regardless of one's age, is a powerful and transformative process. Those who have benefited from Brit Yosef Yitzchak's service constitute a family with many maintaining regular contact with the staff, and still others volunteering or working as staff members. Countless Jews have used the experience as a jumping off point for deepening their commitment to and practice of Judaism.

"We've been able to help a lot of Jews get their brit milah, but that only scratches the surface, our work is really only beginning. In New York alone there must be close to 200,000 uncircumcised Jews. Honestly, most simply have no idea of just how important and simple a brit milah can be."

Zalman Nelson is a licensed therapist, online counselor, and freelance writer/editor. His private practice fuses modern therapeutic techniques with the ancient Jewish wisdom of Kabbalah and Chassidic thought. He lives in Israel with his wife and five children. Connect with him here.
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Peter Herman Brooklyn December 5, 2016

Orla, foreskin as allegory Nachman of Breslav, Lubavitcher Rebbe) Many great sages refer allegorically to circumcision: orla, foreskin of the world, as representing the evil inclination, selfish desires etc...therefore, to be "circumcised" meant altering your desires and instead of serving our evil inclination, serve Hashem instead. Also, many Kosher laws are referred to as allegorical, namely for ways of behaving. The inner dimension of the Torah, especially in the Kehot Chumash, seems to be metaphorical. Reply

Simcha M Bart for LOS ANGELES February 29, 2016

Hospital Circumcision If a Mohel did not perform the circumcision then a "Hatafat Dam Brit" (drawing of blood) will be done by a Mohel to ensure that one fulfills the Mitzvah of Brit Milah properly.

Constantin New York, NY via October 21, 2012

F.R.E.E. Circumcision Program I had my bris done through the Free circumcision program and the rabbi assisted me within 24 hours!

I am amazed at their professionalism and I would recommend any person who is seeking a Brit Milah to contact this wonderful organization that did everything at no charge.

This was a great help to me in spiritually and financially. Now I finally feel like a complete Jew.

Thanks FREE! Spasiba Reb Okunev! Reply

Anonymous New Port Richey, Florida January 31, 2012

brit What if you have the child circumcised by a dr in the hospital ( pediatrician) but no ceremony. What can make up for the ceremony when the child is now an adult. Reply

Anya Liss Migdal, IIsrael December 22, 2010

Thanks to Brit Yosef Yitzchak My 12 year old son choose to have Brit Milah, just 3 weeks ago, in time for his Bar Mitvah next week. I didn't want to impose it upon him as a baby and wanted the choice to be his - never thinking he
would choose to have it done! He says he would recommend it to any adult Jew, as it does not hurt, but takes time to heal and be able to wear clothes. He did it through Brit Yosef Yitzchak, in Israel and we sincerely thank them for the opportunity. We would like to encourage other children and adults to have it done. Reply

Anonymous Milan, Italy December 21, 2010

And how is the traditional brith different from medical circumcision,for adult people? Reply

Jocelyn Ruth Krieger Boca raton, Fl December 20, 2010

Circumcision Rebbetzin Bina Avtson of blessed memory, was known as "Mother Russia" in Detroit for arranging hundreds of circumcisions. As her friend, I drove men and boys home from the hospital. One man rocked and screamed,"The Communists have caused my pain!. A 12 year old boy huddled with his mother. He had refused anesthetic and said the brochah.Boys received a new bicycle. In a Russian home during a baby's circumcision, the grandmother pulled the shades, blocked the doors in fear. "The police will come any minute! They will know we are Jews!" Afterwards she cradled the baby, tears flowing on her aged cheeks. Most unforgettable was a young rabbi who held the lifeless body of his infant son during circumcision. I held the weeping mother. "Now he will be known as a Jew in Paradise. It is G-d's will!" Reply

Lisa Providence, RI November 8, 2010

Never Too Late for a Brit Abraham was 99 years old when God told him to circumcise himself and all the males in his family.

I'm a Reform Jew, and I embrace circumcision 100% not only for my faith, but also for aesthetics, hygiene, and sanitation.

Since we now live in the 21st Century, we should have local anesthesia to avoid "unnecessary" pain and discomfort. Reply

brit defender via April 11, 2009

brit vs. intelectual reasoning to the mother below, yes the Jewish people perform the brit in a manner far safer than the conventional hospital. The brit is not just a tradition! it is a very serious commandment from the Torah! Before making such statement about this important mitzva, please read into what this mitzva is about! It is far from being intelectual to jump to conclusions before doing proper research. The brit just happends to be medically beneficial, it has been proven to lessen the spread of the AIDs virus from an infected woman to a circumcized man by 50% for example, but the reason the Jews are commanded to perform it, is not a medical one!
If you are Jewish and question the Torah's commandments, then you should speak with a Rabbi and please have an open mind. A cup which is full will not be able to contain the new info. Reply

Anonymous via February 25, 2009

Difference in Brit and Procedure I noticed the comment written by a mother that immediately identifies swelling and pain her son endured as part of his medical procedure. One thing I've noticed is that most do not seem to be aware that the medical procedure is different than most traditional brits. Actually, the medical procedure is far more painful, partially due to a clamp used, and requires a longer recovery. Reply

Anonymous Kanata, ON February 24, 2009

Intellectual Strength versus Tradition OK, I'm a Mom, and I guess this is a mens' subject. However, I signed for the circumcision of my son where it was given as a matter of course in a Toronto hospital.
I was extremly dismayed and heartsick to see the cut, swollen tissue and plastic clip upon my tiny newborn. Nevertheless, if sphegma can carry cancer and cause terrible vaginal cancer, it is an imperfect condition, to be sure.
I have always revered the work of Josheph Chilton Pierce, whose book, Crack in hte Cosmic Egg, suggested that people aspiring, thinking together and concomitantly evolving the material of a reality can just as well remove (at first, in the minds' eye) the cancer carrying capability of DNAs nucleotides producing the sphegma. It can be done- a society can diet, use nano-technology, and also medicine toward NEVER having cancer in the first place. eg: eat less cancerous meat.
Here is a case where the arcane is an obscenity compared to the sophistication of modern medicine and meditation, too. Reply

d pol via February 23, 2009

I would recommend to put into the article about someone who might of been circumsized but did not have a bris and what would need to be done , not so difficult but very major Reply

David Spindel,.M.D. Chicago, IL February 23, 2009

Never Too Late I personally have met Rabbi Amit and can attest to his sincerety and devotion to this great mitzva
There also is a great Segula in participating in this mitzva, either as a Sandick, Mohel or finacial supporter.
As a physician, I will personally participate in Brissim in the near future, please G-d! Reply

Anonymous Lexington, Kentucky February 23, 2009

Brit Milah I am a Roman Catholic.

On the eighth day after my birth I was circumcised. I was told this by my mother.

Years later I asked my mother "why?" I was told that I was curcumcised because it was the Law; the subject was dropped.

I never gave it another thought until I read this article.

Both of my parents have a European history, my father especially.

I am somewhat preplexed. What was being conveyed to me? Reply

Circumcision is the first commandment given by G-d to Abraham, the first Jew, and is central to Judaism.
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