THE OREGONIAN, Portland, Friday, July 18, 2008.

Sacred ritual or genital mutilation?

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Oregonian

Cara Ungar-Gutierrez's decision not to circumcise her son Enzo ("Circumcision: a painful decision," How We Live section, July 17) is her own to make; however, I seriously question her rationale that it was "the most Jewish decision I could make."

If her sense of a "Jewish decision" is the tradition of asking challenging questions about every aspect of the religion and life, she might have a point. However, the act of circumcision is a ritual deeply embedded in the Jewish soul, marking Abraham's covenant with God and with the Jewish people.

Those who have attended a bris milah ceremony can confirm that the crying that Ungar-Gutierrez would have felt uncomfortable with is momentary and the ritual is gentle and joyful.

The alternative for Enzo is, if he chooses a Jewish life, to circumcise as an adult. What it means to be Jewish is complicated even for devout Jews. Communicating it to a Gentile world is a challenge. Your articles fell short of the mark.


I just read the interview with Cara Ungar-Gutierrez and I have tears in my eyes. As a Jewish woman and the mother of two college-age daughters, I thought back to the time of my pregnancy with my first daughter. We did not know if we were having a boy or a girl but I had decided that if I had a boy, he would not be circumcised. This choice caused much anger in my family and my then-husband's family.

I have always been of the belief that I do not have the right to permanently alter my child's body with a cosmetic procedure and that the presence or lack of foreskin is not what makes a boy Jewish.

Thank you to Ungar-Gutierrez for her strength and compassion. She is truly an inspiration to intactivist parents everywhere.

TABITHA vonKUHLMANN North Portland Editor's note: An "intactivist" is "a person who participates in an activist group or as an individual for the rights of children to remain genitally intact,"

Religious circumcision be damned. Let's get real and call it for what it is: genital mutilation without anesthesia, inflicted upon a helpless human being without his consent.

What galls me is the lack of public outrage, especially by feminists who vehemently oppose female circumcision. Genital mutilation is a barbaric practice and should be banned.


The first rule in medical ethics is patient autonomy. Before physicians can perform any "elective" procedure, they must provide "informed consent." In performing infant circumcision this is impossible because the owner of the penis has no ability to have input into the decision process.

This is the main reason that I quit doing circumcisions about 15 years ago.

DAVID R. GRUBE, M.D. Family physician Philomath

(File created 18 July 2008)