Male circumcision is the oldest ritual connected with Judaism. It ties us to Abraham and the covenant that exists between God and the Jewish people: "God further said to Abraham: 'As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your offerings to come throughout the ages. Such shall be the covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your offspring to follow. Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. At the age of eight days, every male among you throughout the generations shall be circumcised" (Gen. 17:9-13).
As Reform Jews, we have affirmed the rite of circumcision. A 1977 responsa issued by the Central Conference of American Rabbis stated: "We strongly urge parents to have the circumcision on the eighth day, even if it might take place at home. Hundreds of generations have observed this rite on the eighth day. Through the observance of this ritual on the eighth day, we teach each new generation the importance of the keeping of the covenant of Abraham."
A proposal to ban the practice of male circumcision will be on the ballot in San Francisco this fall, and similar efforts are expected elsewhere. These initiatives are an attack on the American commitment to religious liberty and the Constitutional protection of the free exercise of religion, which has been a source of strength and pride since the United States' founding. The URJ has long been a vocal defender of First Amendment rights, and has noted, in the past, opposition to "all attempts to weaken the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States or to erode the protections it provides" (Resolution on First Amendment Rights, 1995).THEREFORE,
the Union for Reform Judaism resolves to:
- Reaffirm male circumcision as an integral part of the divine covenant (brit milah) that has existed for five thousand years between God and the Jewish people;
- Continue to support the Constitution's First Amendment commitment to religious liberty and free exercise;
- Support the right to male circumcision as a core manifestation of free exercise of religion for Jews and others who hold it as a central religious ritual; and
- Express our opposition to legislation, ballot initiatives or other measures that would make the practice of male circumcision, including ritual circumcision, illegal.