Progressively Speaking: Speak up in defence of circumcision

Progressively Speaking: Speak up in defence of circumcision

Rabbi Charley Baginsky takes a topical issue and applies a progressive response

Baby during a brit milah ceremony
Baby during a brit milah ceremony

My son was born by emergency C-section. The last thing I remember before being put to sleep was they could not find a heartbeat. Wonderfully, he came into the world unscathed by his traumatic birth, healthy and happy.

Then his seventh night came around and, as I sat in the dark feeding him, I struggled that the next day I’d contemplate subjecting him to brit milah.

When the mohel, the truly wonderful Dr Howard Cohen, came to our house, he was subjected to all my angst – I was every bit the worried mother and my rabbinical experience went out of the window.

Howard had seen it all before and allayed my nerves. Anaesthetic and breastfeeding my boy as the prayers were said were but two of the Progressive innovations that made the ceremony one of the most meaningful and spiritual moments of my life.

As a Liberal rabbi, I am clear parents need to be supported in making autonomous choices. I have a responsibility to hear their concerns and discuss their options.

I want to create meaningful rituals recognising the joy and thanks of a child being born, that equally notes the blessing we give to a child being given a name and when we provide the first step into the covenant of Judaism.

That said, I also firmly believe we as a Jewish community should speak up for the ritual of circumcision and its part in our Jewish lives.

As a communal rabbi, I have spoken to many couples who worry before the ceremony. My experience and that of colleagues is we hear only  wonderful stories of how important the moment was for the family.

It is also rare to hear teenage boys or adult men say they regret being circumcised – rather the opposite.

I would never try to pressurise a family to circumcise a son, but I think we must counter the negative media coverage of circumcision with the stories of how an ancient ritual can be transformative, important and connecting within our modern Jewish frameworks.


  •  Charley Baginsky is Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships. For more on Progressive Jewish circumcision visit 


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