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Circumcision in Real Life and in Slash - Mo's Journal — LiveJournal
January 21st, 2007
01:32 pm

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Circumcision in Real Life and in Slash

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From:shocolate
Date:January 21st, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
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I came here all ready to stomp and say that Harry Potter is British and intact and got distracted by the interestingness!!

But I cannot imagine a 13-year-old boy - or a prospective groom - would have to prove he was circ'ed - surely he'd just need his parents' marriage documents, to prove he was Jewish and he could have his bar mitzvah or wedding?
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From:mofic
Date:January 22nd, 2007 12:36 am (UTC)
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I'm sorry to lose you an opportunity to rant about circumcised Potters! Please feel free to do so just the same.

As to Jewish boys and bar mitzvahs, I suppose it's possible for a family to move just before their son turns 13 and then just join a shul and have a bar mitzvah, no one the wiser, but it seems a lot of trouble. In general, boys are being bar mitzvahed in a shul community in which they grew up. What I've seen with uncirc'ed Jewish boys is one of two circumstances:

- the parents make a conscious effort to deceive the community about their choice. They don't hire Jewish babysitters when the boys are babies/toddlers, don't change the baby at shul if anyone can see, teach him as he gets older not to use a urinal or change in a public locker room lest anyone know. This induces imo great shame around the genitals and is very bad news. It's also possible that the rabbi will catch on and will ask the parents if the child was circumcised. They can, of course, lie, but again I think hiding this choice and lying about it is not a good thing for the kid.

- the parents don't hide their choice and it is a controversial one and known in the community. The rabbi discusses it with them and reiterates that brit milah is necessary for bar mitzvah. As I said, I do know kids who needed to make that decision and although the parents felt they were empowering the child to decide for himself, that's not how the kids viewed it.

As to a wedding, I think it's actually *more* likely that a man would be asked to produce a certificate saying that he had a bris than his parents' marriage certificate. But you're right that he'd likely be able to get away with getting married if he was doing so in a community where his family was not known. He would likely be asked if he's Jewish, if his mother was Jewish when he was born, if he was circumcised, etc. But it's quite true that someone who is willing to lie about any of those can likely get away with deceiving people, since no one is going to inspect his penis.

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From:shocolate
Date:January 22nd, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)
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Well, I needn't rant, because you agreed with me - they're British in the 1990's!

I don't mean moving and finding a new shul and speaking with a fake accent and never hiring Jewish babysitters.....

I mean Jewish family, non-practising, not members of a community or a shul, boy not circ'ed, who would know or care - grows up and wants to be bah mitzvah, or flukes meeting a Jewish girl and wants to get married.

If the parents can find their marriage certificate, that should do - I mean, what if he IS circ'ed but no one kept the certificate!

"Yup, I'm Jewish, my parents are Jewish, we just don't belong to a shul, my fiancee does, marry us."
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From:mofic
Date:January 22nd, 2007 12:59 am (UTC)
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Well, first of all, it's bar mitzvah, not "bah mitzvah" and it doesn't work like that. You don't just show up and say "I want a bar mitzvah." You typically study for years, have multiple meetings with a rabbi, plan it for a long time, etc. In my shul, for example, kids need to be in Hebrew School of some sort from second grade on to be bar or bat mitzvahed and they need to be members of our community for two years by the time of their bar/bat mitzvah. It's a fairly serious intellectual exercise requiring study and preparation. An unaffiliated family would likely not go through this with their son. He might choose to have a Jewish education and a bar mitzvah ceremony as an adult (turning 13 is actually all it takes to be a bar mitzvah, but usually when we talk about "having a bar mitzvah" we mean the ceremony and possible a party) but if so he's going to engage in a course of study leading to it, and he will be asked if he's circumcised as part of the preliminaries. He can lie, of course, but why he'd want to do it enough to put the effort into it but be willing to lie to have it happen is beyond me.

As to a wedding, how much the rabbi will question the groom and/or his parents will vary from rabbi to rabbi. If the groom was not raised in a family that practiced Judaism, he is likely going to be very closely questioned about whether or not he had a brit, what his Hebrew name is, what if any Jewish education he has had, was his mother Jewish when he was born, and so on. He can, of course, lie.

I am agreeing with you that someone could deceive a rabbi and an entire shul community into believing that the young man is circumcised when he is not (because no one's going to look at his penis) if he is getting married among people he does not know. He actually probably could also - if not Jewish - deceive a rabbi into marrying him. I don't think most people would go that far to have a fraudulent ceremony, and I would wonder about a parental choice that kind of planned for it ("Well, we won't circumcise him because he can always lie and say he's circumcised when he grows up.")
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From:shocolate
Date:January 22nd, 2007 01:09 am (UTC)
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Well, I know someone whose daughter is twelve in December and has been going to Hebrew school for a year - and the family have not set foot inside a shul in years - and aren't even married, so there's no marriage certificate, either.

Granted, the girl is a girl, so doesn't have to prove anything for her bat mitzvah, it's just something her mother fancies doing.

Maybe the UK is easier.

And I am an atheist and marrried in shul and I was never once asked if my family practised anything - I just had to bring in my mum's marriage certificate.
(Deleted comment)
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From:mofic
Date:January 22nd, 2007 02:01 am (UTC)
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I don't think I'm misunderstanding the mitzvah at all. Perhaps I was unclear? As I said, ime if the parents chose not to circumcise their son, ime the rabbi discusses it with them and makes clear that it will be required if they wish to have a bar mitzvah ceremony in shul.

And yes, I have found that men have been questioned as I said in order to marry. The questioning covers *both* Jewish ancestry and brit milah, precisely because non-ritual circumcision does not count. If there was not a brit milah, often there will be a ceremony (including a drop of blood) in advance of the wedding.
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From:mofic
Date:January 22nd, 2007 02:36 am (UTC)
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I think we're kind of talking at cross-purposes. This will be my last attempt to explain to you what I'm saying, since I seem unable to make myself clear to you, so if it doesn't work this time, I'm going to give up.

I am not saying what you seem to think I'm saying. In my experience, brit milah is deemed very important and parents who choose not to do so for their sons really do end up limiting the son's Jewish practice, at least in communities with which I'm familiar. I am not saying that it's determining of the boy's Judaism *at all*. I am saying that if there is not a proper brit milah in my experience the man is required to undergo that in advance of a bar mitzvah ceremony or wedding, including tifat hadam, if there was a circumcision without brit milah. Clearly your experience differs.

As stated elsewhere, I don't think religion is the only reason to have a Jewish boy circumcised, but it is a potent one in the Jewish communities with which I'm familiar.
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From:mofic
Date:January 22nd, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)
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LOL! Not quite, but close enough. You seem so hung up on "correcting" me for saying that an uncircumcised man isn't Jewish - which I never said, which I don't believe - that you can't seem to understand what I am saying. I don't think "halakhic conformity" is really the issue. Maybe I'll feel more able to get through to you another time, but for now I'm giving up.

Hey, I don't think I've seen you before. How did you come to be reading my journal and commenting?
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From:mofic
Date:January 22nd, 2007 11:27 am (UTC)
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Perhaps you don't have experience of Jews who haven't circumcised their sons, so it hasn't come up in your community? FWIW I don't think I'm talking about "mean rabbis" at all.

In any event, I've already conceded that someone can deceive a whole community if the family so chooses, I just don't know why they would. Anyway, you seem stuck on what really is a side issue and not my point, which was that circumcision is as much about tribal, ethnic, and general belonging issues as it is about religion for many Jews.
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From:mofic
Date:January 22nd, 2007 12:08 pm (UTC)
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Oh and thank you for letting me know where these HP people came from!
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