A recent gathering of the National Organization of American Mohelim made news this week, demystifying the brit milah for the rest of the world. Somehow, though, these mostly moonlighting surgeons come off as a convention of used car salesmen rather than reps for the most sacred of Jewish rituals. But it could be the way the reporter presented them.
According to the article, all you need is an M.D. and couple of theology classes and you, too, can be a mohel. Don’t scoff; penis-snipping is a fairly lucrative side job: You can expect to earn anywhere from $300 to $700 for every foreskin.
Around the Bay Area, if you ask any parent of a Jewish son — from Orthodox to Reform to hippie Rainbow Renewal — who performed the bris, the answer will probably be Chabad rabbi Chanan Feld. Even those who have never brushed up against the shtetl vibe want him to perform the deed on their newborn sons. The guy’s the real thing — black coat, black hat and big beard — and kissed our mezuzah when he came to our house. Which was so much more reassuring to me than the female Asian doctor who also advertised her services.
I’ll probably get a lot of crap for that last statement, but when one’s hold on the tradition and understanding of the covenantof Judaism is as tenuous as mine can be sometimes, I’m going with with the haimish dude in the black hat every time.
Besides, my father, a retired surgeon, watched Rabbi Feld do “the slice” and said he’d never seen a steadier hand or a cleaner cut.
My 8-month preggers friend Heather, who knows she’s having a boy by the little winkie on the ultrasound, called me in a panic yesterday because she’s scared Rabbi Feld won’t let her husband hold the baby during the bris because he’s not Jewish. I told her not to fret; while the rabbi might be Orthodox, he’s probably encountered this kind of situation before and has a way around it. With the rates of circumcision dropping, mohelim need to keep their customers happy.