Brit shalom (naming ceremony)
Brit shalom (Hebrew: ברית שלום; "Covenant of Peace"), also called alternative brit (or bris in Yiddish and Ashkenazi Hebrew), brit ben, brit chayim or brit tikkun, is a naming ceremony for newborn Jewish boys that does not involve circumcision. It is intended to replace the traditional brit milah, and is promoted by groups such as Beyond the Bris and Jews Against Circumcision. The term is generally not used for girls, since their naming ceremony does not involve circumcision.
Brit shalom is recognized by organizations affiliated with Humanistic Judaism like the Society for Humanistic Judaism, The Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations, and the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, but not by any of the major denominations in Judaism. Reform Jewish rabbis welcome these families in their communities, although not all of them advertise this in public since it is considered a private matter.
There are different forms of brit shalom ceremonies. Some of them involve the washing of the baby's feet, called Brit rechitzah. Brit shalom ceremonies are performed by a rabbi or a lay person; in this context, rabbi does not necessarily imply belief in God, as some celebrants belong to Humanistic Judaism.
The actual number of brit shalom ceremonies performed per year is not known. Filmmaker Eli Ungar-Sargon, who is opposed to circumcision, said regarding its current popularity that "calling it a marginal phenomenon would be generous". This was confirmed by a survey conducted by The Jewish Journal among mohalim and brit shalom celebrants in the Los Angeles area. However, according to The New York Times and NPR, its popularity is increasing.
A growing number of contemporary Jews and Intactivist Jewish groups in the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel, both religious and secular, choose not to circumcise their sons. Among the reasons for their choice, Intactivist Jewish parents state that circumcision is a form of child abuse that involves genital mutilation forced on men and violence against helpless infants, a violation of children's rights, and their opinion that circumcision is a dangerous, unnecessary, painful, traumatic and stressful event for the child, which can cause even further psychophysical complications down the road, including serious disability and even death. They are assisted in the celebration of brit shalom by a small number of Reform, Liberal, and Reconstructionist rabbis, and also by Humanistic Jewish congregations.
Ritual circumcision of a male child on the eighth day of life is part of Jewish law. Although one does not need to be circumcised to be Jewish, Orthodox Jews consider an intended failure to follow this commandment as bringing forth the penalty of kareth, or being "cut off" from the community, as well as being indicative of a conscious decision to cut oneself off from one's people. However, even in the most Orthodox groups, Jewish identity is defined by matrilineal descent; a child born to a Jewish mother is recognized as Jewish, regardless of the status of the genitals. In Progressive Judaism, intact boys are usually accepted for religious training and bar mitzvah if they are sons of a Jewish mother and have been raised with a Jewish identity. Movements that do not see Jewish law as binding, such as Reform Judaism and Humanistic Judaism, may allow this ceremony.
- Bodily integrity
- Children's rights
- Circumcision controversies
- Ethics of circumcision
- Religious male circumcision
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Unlike Christian baptism, circumcision, however important it may be, is not a sacrament which gives the Jew his religious character as a Jew. An uncircumcised Jew is a full Jew by birth (Ḥul. 4b; 'Ab. Zarah 27a; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 264, 1). [...] In 1847 Einhorn, as chief rabbi of Mecklenburg, became involved in a controversy with Franz Delitzsch of Rostock, who denounced him for acting contrary to Jewish law in naming and consecrating an uncircumcised child in the synagogue. Einhorn, in an "opinion" published a second time in his "Sinai", 1857, pp. 736 et seq., declared, with references to ancient and modern rabbinical authorities, that a child of Jewish parents was a Jew even if uncircumcised, and retained all the privileges, as well as all the obligations, of a Jew. This view he also expressed in his catechism, his prayer-book, and his sermons, emphasizing the spiritual character of the Abrahamic covenant—"the seal of Abraham placed upon the spirit of Israel as God's covenant people."