An interesting phenomenon may be emerging in the U.S. when it comes to bris milah. A new report by The Atlantic has concluded, based on interviews with a number of mohalim, that a growing number of non-Jewish couples are choosing to circumcise their sons in the traditional Jewish way.
“Nationwide, circumcisions have decreased over the last few decades—from 64.5 percent of newborn boys in 1979 to 58.3 percent in 2010, according to Centers for Disease Control data—but among those opting to circumcise their sons, some non-Jews are forgoing the hospital or doctor’s office and requesting Jewish mohels for reasons both practical and religious,” writes Jessica Alpert.
Some mohalim are willingly catering to non-Jews.
Families “are seeking the spiritual component and are often seeking to do this in the context of their own religion or spirituality,” says one mohel.
But this trend could mean a problem for those mohalim who are not also physicians.
“The right to perform brit milah is protected under the First Amendment, but when it’s no longer a religious ritual, mohels may run up against laws that forbid the practice of medicine without a license, explains Marci Hamilton, a church-state scholar and professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. There is no legal gray area for mohels who are also health professionals—these mohels can perform the procedure on non-Jews as part of their medical practice, even if the primary purpose is religious rather than medical,” explains the article in The Atlantic.
Since there have been some areas around the country where the idea of banning circumcision altogether has gained traction, as has been the case in California, some Jewish religious figures fear that if a non-doctor mohel makes a mistake on a non-Jewish child, it could foster greater opposition to the practice.