Thursday, February 11, 2010

Circumcision by Choice

I take issue with Jewschool's DK, on circumcision:

all else being equal, if any human has a choice in being circumcised or not being circumcised, they are going to choose not to be circumcised

I was circumcised at the age of 25, by choice. Any man dreading undergoing circumcision need not. Local anesthesia, followed by discomfort for another day, two weeks of bandages, a little itchy until the stitches dissipate; stubbed toes hurt more. The most uncomfortable part of the whole thing was that two female nurses practically insisted on holding my hands through it. Having two moderately attractive women look on in pity as you undergo a penultimate moment of Jewish manhood... but then the numbed, textural crunch of your skin being scissored off your member focuses the mind.

Back to my point, my brother was circumcised at the age of 14, by choice; My friend, at the age of 23, also by choice. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews were circumcised well into their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s… after the fall of the Soviet Union. I’ve even heard of someone in their 80s going under the knife.

Circumcision is an irrevocable act of Jewish affiliation. In lands where anti-Semitism is woven into the fabric of society, where every time you pull down your pants - whether in a locker room, hospital or your girlfriend’s bed - your lack of foreskin identifies you as foreign, different, a Jew, and where this identification can have enormous consequences on your private and professional life, there are Jewish parents who do not wish to limit the potential of their children to advance in the world. Being a Jew in America is easy. Being a Jew, openly, in Europe, even today, is less so, and it was far worse not so long ago.

This is why my parents didn’t circumcise me as a child, though my father is sticking to the story that Soviet hospitals were just not that sanitary back then.

One particular story I learned from a friend: after the Soviet Union fell, hundreds of Russian Jews in Moscow visited the private home of a Jewish doctor, where after taking a shot of vodka they would lie back on a table and have their foreskin removed, without anesthesia, dozens at a time. Many did this just hours before boarding a plane to Israel.

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