Hayim Leiter
Mohel, Activist, and Educator

Brit Milah is under attack

Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang brought the anti-circumcision attack to America this week. As reported by the Daily Beast, Yang said: “From what I’ve seen, the evidence on it being a positive health choice for the infant is quite shaky.” He also “tweeted last week that he was ‘against the practice’ of circumcision, [and] said if he were president he would work to ‘inform parents that it is entirely up to them whether their infant gets circumcised, and that there are costs and benefits either way.’” And the most disturbing statement of all: “Yang said he is ‘highly aligned’ with a group of circumcision critics called ‘Intactivists’ who believe the male genitalia should remain ‘intact’.”

Oddly enough, this is not the first time circumcision has been a topic in a presidential election. During the last presidential run, both candidates, President Trump and Senator Clinton, had Britot in their families. The anti-circumcision movement was vocally opposed to President Trump attending his grandson’s bris. Protestors threatened to disrupt remaining campaign events if he attended. In the end, President Trump claimed he was unable to attend due to his rigorous campaign schedule.

Now we face a different animal. Andrew Yang has made circumcision more than just a family affair. He’s made it a debate point. Responses to his statements have been confused, to say the least. Social media reactions have mostly focused on his desire to educate parents and make sure the procedure isn’t forced on them in the hospital. Many have subsequently stated — both Yang and others — that the ritual practice is not under question. Obviously, this is comforting. And if Yang had only focused on this issue, all might be forgiven but he had much more to say.

Yang’s alliance with the anti-circumcision movement is deeply troubling. In its mission statement, Intact America claims they want to “end involuntary circumcision”. That means, if they have their way, the only two types of circumcisions permitted would be those of medical necessity and men 18 and older who desire the procedure for aesthetic purposes. Parents would no longer be able to provide a circumcision for their child without a medical reason.

Whether Yang realizes it or not, by allying himself with this organization, he negated claims that his focus would be on education. The Intactivists are interested in moving beyond parental consent. They wish to end circumcision, period.

I have had my run-ins with these people in the social media sphere a few times and their tactics are always the same. They utilize hate speech and trolling to shut down any comments on circumcision they don’t agree with.

To advertise my business as a mohel, I have a Facebook business page detailing my work and publicizing articles related to Brit Milah. The most valuable part of this page is the reviews. Clients can write a recommendation and rate me on a scale of 0-5.

A few weeks ago, one of my clients rated me 5 out of 5.  Just after she posted the recommendation, the Intactivists got wind of it and began inundating my page with their hateful rhetoric. The comments ranged from things like “You Jews always hide behind that anti-semitism crap”  but probably the worst of all — an image of an observant Jew in a prayer shawl holding a baby. The caption read “Can I suck your baby’s _____ ?” (my editing), followed by an image of a woman with a look of disgust on her face. Then the Jewish character remarks,  “No, no, I’ll cut it first.” Then the woman gives a thumbs up with a smile. This is a shot at Metzizah B’Peh (which I am also against). The only way to end this particular onslaught was for my client to delete the post.

These people are hateful. They are not interested in discourse or in a productive conversation of any kind. They see something they oppose and they attack to eradicate any and all dissension. And worst of all, Facebook does nothing to stop them. Believe me, I’ve tried logging complaints, to no avail. If you’d like to help put an end to such verbal attacks, there is a campaign called “Help Facebook Recognize Dangerous Hate Speech”. You can sign here.

When it comes to Andrew Yang, I would ask, are these your people? Do you really align with their philosophies and especially with their conduct? I do hope the answer is no. He has agreed to speak about circumcision on Ben Shapiro’s show in the coming days. Maybe this appearance will shed light on his actual stance and possibly prove me wrong. The type of discourse that the Intactivists use must be stopped. It is not only anti-circumcision, it is anti-semitic, and any presidential candidate would do well to stay far away.

About the Author
Hayim Leiter is a Rav and a Mohel in Israel , as well as an activist, and a Jewish Educator. He founded Safer HaBrit, an organization committed to protecting both our sacred ceremony of Brit Milah and the children who undergo it. He made Aliyah in 2009 and lives in Jerusalem with his wife and children.
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