Jewish circumcision question (need help fast – sundown is approaching!)

Long story short; son is slated to have a bris on Monday morning. Wife grew up in the Soviet Union (immigrated at 18 in the 1980s), and it turns out her mother is not Jewish. Her father is, as am I and both my parents. Though I’ve been bar mitzvaed, I/we are about as secular as one can get, so are very much fourth-child like (i.e., not sure of the questions to ask).

Our concern is the non-Jewishness of the mother-in-law. Is this something we should tell the Moil? Would it make a difference?



I suppose mention it. In case there is an issue the Moil should know. If there isn’t then no biggie.

I’d be surprised if it mattered but then I know little of these things now (grew up in a predominantly Jewish area, most of my friends were Jewish but that is longer ago than I care to admit these days).

Depending on your moil’s point of view, your wife and your son may not be considered Jewish. Jewish religion passes through the mother for the Orthodox and conservative. Reform and reconstructionist have a more progressive attitude about it, viewing paternlineal descent as valid.

Congrats on the baby!

Side question: I’ve always seen this spelled “mohel.” Is “moil” an alternate correct spelling, or just an error? (I need to know these things!)

Dunno about the spelling! Typing fast and just copied what was there! :smiley:

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who mohel for gold”

From “The Circumcision of Sam Levine”?

“Please sir, can I have some mohel?”
Unfortunately, the mohel is unreachable until the day of. He’s also under the impression (created in a way that normally only happens on a cheesy sitcom) that she is Jewish, so we’d have to correct him blade-in-hand. :eek:

It really depends on the mohel. He may consider your son Jewish or he may not.

Don’t bump the baby!

Ok, so the Holidays are at rest, I thought to bump this as the mohel is slated to arrive in a few hours. Any other input?

I’m assuming that neither your wife nor her mother ever converted to Judaism? If either one did, then you have no issue. If neither did, then… well, maybe.

According to Reform Judaism, the baby is Jewish when one parent is Jewish and the child is raised Jewish. So, if the mohel is Reform, you have no problem.

However, according to Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, Jewishness descends from the mother’s side. So, if your wife’s mother was not Jewish by birth (and didn’t covert), then your wife would not be Jewish (unless she converted) and neither would her child. I do not know how the mohel might react if that’s the situation, and if the mohel is conservative or orthodox.

The orthodox/conservative process of converting a baby is fairly simple, however, and usually involves taking the child to the mikvah (ritual bath) and appearing before a panel of rabbis to swear that the baby will be raised Jewish. It’s helpful if one of the rabbis knows you, of course. I assume that, if the mohel refuses to do the circumcision on grounds that the child isn’t Jewish (by birth), he/she might be convinced if you promise to take the child through the conversion process. However, I’m just guessing here.

Let me also say that, with many Russian immigrants, there’s an understood “don’t ask, don’t tell” side to things. All religions were discouraged under the Communist regime, but Judaism especially received harsh treatment. Consequently, there’s lots of uncertainty. People who think they were Jewish might not have been, and people who think they weren’t, might have been. Therefore, there’s now a fair amount of deliberate closing of the eyes. So, one way out: if your wife was raised Jewish and thinks of herself as Jewish, just don’t bring up the issue of her mother.

And, mazel tov on your child, and all the best for you and your new family for the coming year.


We’re trying to right by the dude (and several thousand years of ancestors), and between the High Holiday timing (it’s actually nine days since birth) and this, we’re walking a rather careful line. Somewhat apropos given our relative secularism. In the don’t-as-don’t-tell camp is the open question of how Jewish we’ll be raising him. It’s something of an open question, though we are making this start.

Bottom line: would the circumcision itself go any different?

I don’t think so, but I ain’t a expert.

For instance, there’s the physical circumcision and there’s the religious aspect (prayer) surrounding it. So, the mohel might do the physical circumcision but not do the prayers, save them for after the conversion? I dunno, there’s lots of variables in here. Good luck! My suggestion is not to offer any information that’s not asked for.

uhmmm…none of my business, but if both you and your wife are secular, why do you care? (sorry for being so blunt, but I may as well be as clear as possible, unless I missed some important info in the op)

So what happened?

Can’t really answer without straying far from GQ. In shortest (unordered, and probably incomplete) possible terms:
[li]We wanted to preserve his options for later life; [/li][li]Because secular or not, there is a difference between agnosticism and atheism—something brought into focus during time spent in some pretty dark and long-lasting foxholes (there may have been promises made :eek:); [/li][li]Because after four thousand or years of rooftop fiddling, a home-based ritual trumps an impersonal hospital procedure (not sidetracking into the procedure’s pro/con debate); and [/li][li]Though it’s extraordinarily unlikely that we’ll attend an Orthodox temple (Reform would be most likely, if at all), we recognize the life-changing nature of having the dude—in some ways this allows greater flexibility in our own secular proclivities.[/li][/ul]
As for how it went, no one asked again, and in a month or so we’ll quietly ask the Rabbi his thoughts. He was jovial and non-pushy enough to seem approachable on the issue.

The event itself was paradigm shifting. Granted, it would have been easier on us to have the hospital whisk him away to another room where we couldn’t hear or witness it, but it really seemed more “right” to go this route, both for him and us. Again, I don’t want to stray far from GQ, but it’s one of those things that I wouldn’t have understood until experiencing it. I’ve read most of the great religious texts (Old/New Testaments, Ghita, Koran, several major Buddhist sutras…), and am going to start on the cycle again, if for nothing else because I just had such close contact.

Mazel tov!

Rhythmdvl, first, again Mazel tov!

If you would like to continue discussion and sharing your thoughts, email or PM me and I will move this to a forum more suitable.

Mazel tov!

Sorry, I wasn’t able to weigh in on this beforehand and give you a little peace of mind. I was in the position your baby is currently in when I was born. I was raised in a reform temple and am bar mitzvah and circumsized, the whole 9 yards, but technically (I think) I am a convert. But it was all apperantly not any kind of big deal.

The circumsision went on like it normally would have and I was placed in a mikvah at some point after that and my conversion was “completed” when I had my bar-mitzvah. Honestly, until my rabbi mentioned it to me after the ceremony I had no idea that what I was doing was also completing the conversion process since the whole thing is (apperantly) the same for jewish boys who are finishing conversion and those who are just going the normal route.

Are non-Jewish people allowed to wish a Jewish person ‘Mazel tov’? Or is it considered rude, pushy or presumptuous?