Any Jewish Dopers with Uncircumcised Sons?

(Please please do not turn this thread into yet another pro-/anti-circumcision debate! I am looking for advice here on a related issue, not on whether to circumcise of not. The decision not to circumcise our son is final. I thank you in advance.)

As many of you may know, the Beansprout is due in a couple of weeks. He is male. My husband and I are both from Jewish families, but are non-religious. We celebrate our history and culture, but engage in no religious practices. Therefore, we decided not to take our Jewish heritage into consideration when deciding whether or not to circumcise our son. We have decided against circumcision.

My concern is the reaction of our families.

We obviously will not be having a bris (the traditional circumcision ceremony). People will question why we didn’t have one. We figure we can deflect casual inquiries by saying “everything was taken care of at the hospital.” (technically true–we just won’t mention that “everything” didn’t include circumcision.) But of course, the families will find out sooner or later that the baby is uncircumcised, and I see no reason to hide this fact.

My mom is aware that we don’t plan to circumcise, and is unhappy about it. She accepts our decision, though, and admits that a lot of her discomfort comes more from the “ick factor” than from religious considerations. She also was unaware that more and more male babies in the U.S. are not being circumcised, so the “he’ll be different” issue isn’t such an issue any more. I would speculate that most of my family will also accept our decision once we explain it.

My dad, on the other hand, tends to be somewhat more rigid in his thinking. He will be very unhappy with this (knee-jerk reaction), and we will have to endure quite an argument with him. Based on past experience with other issues, though, I predict that he will get over it. Although I dread telling him, I’m not especially concerned that it will be a big issue in the end.

It’s my husband’s family and certain of my husband’s friends that I am worried about.

My husband’s family, while not particularly observant, is concerned about “keeping up appearances” with regard to Judaism. We are not planning to announce anything to them, but someone somewhere will probably change a diaper sooner or later. Word will get out.

My husband’s main concern is that his grandmother not find out, as she will be very very upset. His attitude towards her is not to broach difficult issues, and to let her believe what she wants to believe. (For example, she doesn’t know that I have not taken my husband’s last name, and she thinks that Cousin Mike isn’t married yet because he just hasn’t met the right girl.) If my husband thinks that’s the best approach to take with his grandmother, then I can accept that and cooperate, but I really don’t want to be put in the position of having to hide anything or have to lie about anything.

Anyway, to get to the point–not to circumcise is an unconventional decision for a Jewish family. While I see no need to advertise the decision, I also am not ashamed, and see no benefit to hiding it or lying about it. Fallout will be coming, although I’m not sure what form the fallout will take. I’m hoping that someone out there has some direct experience.

Have any of you Jewish dopers not circumcised your sons? What were the reactions of family and friends? How did you deal with it?

Although my son is circumcised, a friend told me about a “bris” he attended, which was basically a naming ceremony. His friends decided not to circumcise their son because they didn’t want to be responsible for causing their son physical pain. Apparently it was a very nice ceremony, but I don’t know what their families thought about it.

We chose to circumcise for a variety of reasons, but I can see why you wouldn’t want to. The only down side I can see to it, if you aren’t very religious, is that your son may become religious when he is older and want to be circumcised, but then he’ll be making his own decision.

Well, it seems like you already know the form the fallout will take. Your parents, your husband’s parents and your husband’s grandmother will be upset. Your Jewish friends will probably be upset. Your gentile friends probably won’t care or understand what the big deal is.

Captain Amazing–No, I don’t know what form the fallout will take. There is a big difference in the forms that “being upset” can take.

In other words, my folks will be unhappy, but after they get over the initial unhappiness, they will not make any kind of issue of it. That I know. Them, I am not worried about.

My husband’s family, however… Well, I could see enduring a lifetime of reproach–nasty whisperings and predictions of doom. More importantly, I could see them saying things to the Beansprout himself. I could see them doing a lot of things, but I don’t know what. I suspect that you don’t have a Yiddishe Bubbe, 'cause if you did, you’d know that for some of them, “being upset” = “sticking their head in the oven.” :slight_smile:

The one set of “friends” that I am concerned about try to impose their will and their values on us all the time, especially with regard to Judaism and gender roles. He and his wife have recently found religion, and try to prostelytize to us–to convert us into being very observant Jews. (Why are they still friends? Well, the guy is my husbands oldest friend and was the best man at our wedding. He’s really a good person and a good friend. We are hoping that he is experiencing temporary insanity, and that someday he will stop trying to change us.) When and if he finds out that we did not circumcise…well, I don’t expect he’ll kidnap the kid and sneak him off the the mohel, but then again, I wonder… (kidding!)

Anyway, I’m hoping that someone might have some advice or experience to share.
[sub]Aside to ceejaytee–I just got your email! (I’ve been rather negligent lately) How cool! Expect to hear back tomorrow.[/sub]

Hi Green Bean - I’m not Jewish, however my uncles were apparently circumcised, whereas my siblings/cousins were not, it’s a thing that was more popular for non-Jews in the UK but has now declined. In Australia it’s still quite a common practice. So as you say - there’s a big mix out there of snipped and non-snipped, regardless of religion/ethnicity, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about in terms of “changing-room reaction” etc.

Having a circumcision in later life is a bigger deal than having it as a baby, but it’s not that bad (at least not for the friend of mine who had it for medical reasons). I think your family should respect the fact that it will be all the more reverent and significant if your son opts himself for circumcision at a later, more adult age.

If your husband’s family continue a “whispering campaign” - well that’s not the right behaviour from any moral or religious person, is it? And at some point you might have to tell them that. But as long as your husband and you have been open about the decision with your son as he gets older, and explained the whole c-thing to him, I don’t think their opinions should affect him much. Maybe try to make sure he has a few non-c (and preferably Jewish non-c friends) so he knows he’s not “different” as such.

As for your friends - born-agains are born-agains in any religion, and unfortunately I don’t think there’s much you can do except be patient, tolerant, hope that time will settle the fervour down a bit, and maybe distance yourself a little from these friends for a while if you really can’t cope with their attitude.

I am not au fait with Jewish teachings per se, but I don’t think “imposing will and values” is appropriate in any religion. You might want to point this out to them, perhaps backed up with relevant religious texts on free will, personal choice, etc.

Well, that’s what I meant when I said “be upset”. :slight_smile: But, the specific reaction will depend on the person, of course.
You’ll have to figure out how the people around you normally express their displeasure.
I think the general attitude is going to be (which, to be honest with you, is what I thought and felt when I first read your post.) “This is a tradition that’s existed as long as Judaism existed. It’s a commandment older than any part of Jewish law, and people, even people who aren’t religious, have done it, even if it means facing death. Why are you so opposed?”

I think if you’re able to answer that question, it might help with their reactions, especially because that’s probably what they’re thinking and won’t say.