- The Leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis
- United States of America
Medical and ethical opinions on neonatal circumcision have slowly changed over the last 15 years, and dramatically over the last 8 years. The practice of circumcision is, at the present time, extremely controversial. Many "historical" medical beliefs and “traditional” Jewish beliefs, such as “the newborn does not feel pain” and that it is an “innocuous procedure”, have been proven to be wrong.
In 1999, the longstanding policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics was modified to recommend against routine neonatal circumcision.
In 2000, the American Medical Association followed suit, modifying its longstanding policy to recommend against routine neonatal circumcision.
As of April, 2007, seventeen states have dropped Medicaid coverage for the procedure.
Countless organizations have gone on record to question the ethics of neonatal circumcision.
Within Judaism, the Brit Milah, a ritual circumcision performed on the eighth day of life, is considered a central rite.
Reform Judaism, progressive in many other ways, has yet to re-evaluate this practice, in spite of clearly compelling evidence of its medical and ethical shortcomings.
We therefore petition the leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, as principals of the reform Judaism movement within the United States of America, to recognize these shortcomings, and to sanction alternative religious ceremonies that are spiritually relevant but also medically and ethically responsible.
The Reform Movement has always stood for "progressive Judaism" - "a Judaism that changes and adapts to the needs of the day." As progressive reform Jews, we are disappointed that CCAR Responsa suggest the tradition of the Brit Milah be placed above both contemporary medical opinion and the basic human right of "informed consent". Congregational Rabbis look to these Responsa for guidance.
We believe it is time for the URJ and CCAR to demonstrate leadership by now educating its Rabbis to recognize the medical and ethical shortcomings of religious neonatal circumcision, and to both sanction and promote alternative ceremonies, like the Brit Shalom, to support those that do so.
We recognize that this goes deep into the heart of what defines Judaism. The Reform Movement has met similar challenges in generations past, with many once taboo subjects and practices - such as the role of women in Judaism, the acceptance of GLBT membership and rabbinate, and the recognition of interfaith marriages / patrilineal decent - now being widely accepted, and making Judaism the better for it.