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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q21.1.14 TOC Q21.1.16 >

Question 21.1.15:
Entering the Covenant: Is Circumcision required for a boy to be Jewish?


Technically, no.

It is not a bris that makes a child Jewish, it is the circumstances of birth. In traditional Judaism, if the child is born of a Jewish mother, the child is nominally Jewish. For religious reasons, both Conservative and Orthodox Jews view it as a terrible mistake to avoid giving your Jewish child a brit milah (hebrew) (Note that a medical circumcision does not count in halakha (Jewish law) as a brit). Nonetheless, a Jew is a Jew, and he can join a synagogue and participate just as fully as any other Jew.

Note that adults can choose to have a circumcision later in life (although medical involvement is necessary, along with religious involvement). Should a medical circumcision take place, your son could always get the full religious benefit of a second circumcision: the procedure is called hatafat dam brit, "the drawing of a tiny drop of blood in the name of the covenant". This action and ceremony can be done by a mohel (Hebrew)/moyel (Yiddish) nearly painlessly (surprise!) either when your child is still an infant, a child or even as an adult.

Lastly, note that in Reform Judaism, under the Patrilineal Descent decision, either parent being Jewish gives the presumption of the child being Jewish. However, Reform Judaism requires that this presumption be confirmed by the child being raised with appropriate Jewish lifecycle and yearcycle events (i.e., observing holidays, home pratices, religious education)... and one of the specifically recommended events is a circumcision!

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at

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