Tuesday, October 3, 2017


THere I was, catching up on my Chicago newspapers on my return from a trip to Israel when the following article in the Chicago Tribune caught my eye (and I am not making this up):
“Ritual Circumcisers Convene; Politics and Religion Follow
Every trade has its professional meetings, replete with souvenir mugs and other tchotchkes, tabletop forums for lame jokes and tricks of the trade. So why should it have been any different when NOAM met at the Hyatt Regency Hotel last week? 
“I’m more afraid of taking off too little rather than too much,” observed Victor Borden at the opening luncheon.
 A seatmate picked up a pen inscribed to commemorate the organization’s 20th Anniversary. Thicker than most, it had a retractable point.
“It looks just like a ...,” the fellow said.
 NOAM stands for National Organization of American Mohalim -- Ritual Circumcisers to the Reform Wing of the Jewish Faith.” 

This was all too hard for me to believe. “Reform Ritual Circumcisers” -- almost oxymoronic in the view of some! And the redundancy -- “National” and “American” -- who creates these titles, Yogi Berra? So, I decided to sneak off to the Hyatt Regency Chicago and check out what was going on (and I am making some of this up).

Here were some of the topics for the Conference’s Agenda:
  • Tips on Tips
  • The boy who peed from his ear and other stories
  • Liability insurance in a litigious age
  • New tools of the trade -- does a virtual circumcision count

A great, renowned expert on the Jewish condition was to be the keynote speaker: “When you have their balls (even the littlest ones) in your hands, ask for the big money.”

  • Back to reality. As the Regional Director of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Dan Rabishaw, noted in his address, as “[H]e exhorted conventioneers to strive to be more than mere circumcisers. ‘Are you a cutter? A snipper? Or are you a Jewish identity facilitator?’”

    This is big stuff -- or, perhaps, little stuff. Me, I can’t wait till next year. 


Anonymous said...

Isn't this article from 12 years ago?

Also, notwithstanding the comments about Reform mohalim, note the following (kind of a serious issue, no pun intended):

In recent decades, intermarriage has been escalating: In some Reform congregations upwards of half the families have a non-Jewish member. Even when they later embraced Judaism, there could be problems when seeking the service of a mohel (the singular of mohalim).

"An Orthodox mohel might not accept a mother who converted to Judaism, if the conversion wasn't done by an Orthodox rabbi," said Rabbi Lewis Barth, co-founder of NOAM and dean of Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles.

Some non-Orthodox parents have been subject to a kind of shell game, noted Fred Kogen, who took his medical degree at the University of Chicago. The trick depends upon secular Jews not knowing the faith's liturgical language. He explained that a bris is something more than a circumcision. The latter is a surgical procedure; it becomes a bris only when the proper blessings are said, welcoming the boy into the Jewish people by name.

"Parents would get a Mr. Orthodox mohel, right out of central casting with a long white beard," Kogen said. "He'd change the blessing, murmuring something in Hebrew about it being done pending the `future conversion' of the child."

To free Reform parents from those dilemmas, the NOAM program was established, Barth explained. Participants, who are often recruited by their rabbi, go through intensive short-courses in the theology and liturgy of the bris. It can be a life-changing experience, say veterans of the program, which is offered at various locations around the nation.

RWEX said...

You are both perceptive. I wrote this years ago and may have published it years ago. So consider it republished.