In most respects, Michelle Chernikoff Anderson is a rabbi's dream congregant. She sings in the choir and takes classes at her synagogue.
But, like an increasing number of Jews in the United States, she has decided not to circumcise her son, rejecting the traditional notion that it is a Biblically prescribed sign of the Jewish relationship with God.
"I see circumcision as a blood ritual that I can let go of," said Anderson, who lives in Southern California.
Her position is in harmony with a wider decline in circumcision in the United States.
About 85 percent of all American boy babies were circumcised at its peak in 1965, according to a National Opinion Research Center survey.(*)
"Circumcision's out of the closet. It's not a taboo subject anymore. People are talking about it. Parents are talking about it," said Dr. Mark Reiss, a synagogue-goer in the San Francisco area and executive vice president of Doctors Opposing Circumcision.
Among those talking about it is a gaggle of young, male, Jewish commentators. This year alone, in books, online and in magazines, authors Neal Pollack, Sam Apple, Jonathan Safran Foer and Shalom Auslander have all fretted about doing to their sons what was done to them. The title of Auslander's memoir, scheduled for publication in October, is "Foreskin's Lament."...
...Circumcision's detractors also claim the procedure reduces sexual sensation and endurance.
"I haven't attempted foreskin restoration surgery, but I've thought about it," said Matthew Taylor, an active Bay Area Jew who resents his own circumcision and who preaches on the evils of the practice to Jewish friends .
But author Julius Lester, who became a Reform convert to Judaism in 1982 and underwent circumcision to feel Jewish, said the procedure also boosted his sex life.
"Circumcised there are far more subtle sensations, and staying power is much, much longer," he said. "From a sexual point of view, I wish I'd gotten circumcised many years earlier."
Anderson is torn between a desire to protect her son's privacy and what she thinks may be a religious duty to discuss her decision not to circumcise.
"Hey, it's my son's penis, it's not mine to discuss in the same way it's not mine to cut. But at the same time, I feel like maybe I have an obligation to share."
(*)Yes, but how many Jews have statistically refused circumcision?