Bruchim is a startup nonprofit that advocates for Jewish families opting out of circumcision and others who object to the practice. Bruchim holds that forgoing circumcision is fully compatible with traditional Jewish values and full Jewish engagement.
The organization provides opportunities for Jewish people to connect and engage around the historically taboo topic of infant circumcision. These opportunities take the form of gatherings, text studies and divrei Torah. Bruchim also actively seeks out forums in which to have conversations about Jewish circumcision, working to connect new and emerging thinkers with publications and podcasters.
Much of Bruchim’s current work focuses on promoting the inclusion of non-circumcising families within existing Jewish institutions. Many such families would like to participate in synagogue life, preschools, summer camps, JCCs and the like, but there is often a perception that circumcision is required. Bruchim invites Jewish institutions to examine how they can send clear messages of inclusion to these families.
Does Circumcision Status Matter?
Most Jewish institutions and clergy don’t exclude based on circumcision status. According to Jewish law, those who are not circumcised are still fully Jewish. Indeed, there’s no basis in Jewish law for denying an intact (not circumcised) person access to religious life, including b’mitzvah. Despite this, some rabbis/synagogues do require circumcision for full participation. This has contributed to confusion and concern about whether a child’s lack of circumcision will be a barrier to their Jewish involvement.
Families with intact children often have unique concerns, such as:
- Will our rabbi officiate at a birth ceremony that doesn’t include circumcision? If our rabbi says no, or we are not affiliated, can we find a rabbi in our area willing to officiate?
- If our child is in diapers or needs help toileting, does daycare staff know how to care for the natural anatomy? (Specifically, young children’s foreskins should never be retracted for cleaning as the foreskin is naturally fused to the head of the penis.)
- Will our child be allowed to enroll in Hebrew school and become a b’mitzvah in a particular congregation?
- If we choose not to share our child’s circumcision status and someone finds out, will our child be asked to leave camp or school, or told they can’t become a b’mitzvah?
Bruchim also encourages families who elect not to circumcise to hold covenantal birth ceremonies, affirming Jewish connection and continuity rather than simply skipping circumcision. Our Rabbinic Advisory Council includes those who have pioneered and routinely officiate at such ceremonies, including Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, whose ceremony “Brit Atifah” can be found on Ritualwell.com.
Rebecca Wald and Lisa Braver Moss
Please visit www.bruchim.online to learn more about this organization and its many endeavors.