My statements on circumcision during the Covid-19/coronavirus outbreak
Cautiously optimistic, upon request, I wear a mask during the procedure or throughout my stay. At this time, I do not require that everyone in attendance wear a mask, but hygiene is always been a priority. Call to discuss more - I pray this will be the last update necessary.
added July 2022
Well, things have really changed. The latest (as of this update from the CDC website states; CDC COVID-19 Study Shows mRNA Vaccines Reduce Risk of Infection by 91 Percent for Fully Vaccinated People. While 91% is definitely a tempting bet in Vegas, I'm positive that the remaining 9% provides a legitimate concern for families with a newborn. The bottom line at this point is, families need to judge their situation individually. The CDC does still recommend that I wear a mask for the actual procedure and I have worn gloves, cleaned and sterilized my instruments to the highest standards and been a frequent handwasher the time I began serving in this capacity in the Fall of 1991.
I am sad to see that numbers are rising again in many parts of the country. In Pennsylvania, it is not as extreme, thank Gd. I pray that things will change enough that I can encourage more guests. Right now, each family should call me to discuss their options because each is different. Be careful, limit your potential exposure and that of your family.
The numbers of new cases is steadily decreasing but that doesn't mean we can let our guards down. I still insist on the fewest people in attendance as possible. Even your rabbi or cantor can participate from Zoom. I'll even text him or her to sign on when we're ready if they would like. This way, even if their are pressed for time, they can add a few words towards the end of the ceremony and perhaps bestow the priestly benediction as is done often.
As individual states weigh the pros and cons of re-opening certain businesses and loosening restrictions, I remain vigilant with best practices to avoid this virus. I am gloved and masked at all life-cycle events.
A number of families have continued to hold a bris with only parents and other home occupants as well as any deemed essential to the ceremony who have properly self-quarantined. Some decided to allow the hospital interns to circumcise their sons, while still others, have delayed the circumcision entirely. I am always willing to discuss the ramifications of each of these very personal decisions, with of course, no obligation
Latest update: 3-22-2020
If you are reading this, it is likely that you and/or a loved one is expecting a baby soon. You may know the gender or prefer to see for yourself on that wondrous day. In either case, my heart goes out to you. Every aspect of pregnancy and birth should be as joyful as possible. Having this pandemic weigh upon your baby's arrival must feel overwhelming.
Still, the bris must go on
My technique and nearly 30 years of experience with several thousand cases, means your son will undergo a procedure that lasts seconds as opposed to many minutes in hospital circumcisions. Your baby will be handled in a loving manner with beautiful rituals that link him to the many generations that came before his splendid arrival. A sandek (an honor bestowed upon a special designee) will put sweet wine, grape juice or plain sugar water to your son's lips thereby distracting him from the brief procedure.
Complications with a hospital circumcision
Despite the lower risk of contracting any illness at home over a hospital or birthing center, some doctors and delivery room staff are recommending hospital circumcisions over a traditional bris. This is troubling on many fronts. Infection rates are widely known to be higher in hospitals and other medical treatment centers than at home. Hospital circumcisions are often assigned to interns with minimal experience, and they are generally not performed in as expedient a manner as those done by mohalim(plural mohel). Finally, should you assign your son’s circumcision to the hospital staff, he will still need a brit milah.
There are special cases that necessitate the delay of circumcision until the baby is stronger or until he weighs more. Medical conditions may be found that require the consultation of a pediatric urologist. Absent of these factors, a hospital circumcision is never preferable to a mohel with an excellent reputation.
When a baby is circumcised in the hospital, it is nearly always done before the eighth day of life. In this case, entering your son into the Covenant of Abraham requires a symbolic bris ceremony in which the mohel takes a drop of blood from the circumcision site. There are legal situations (adoptions and/or conversions) that require hatafat dam, and when appropriate, I hold these ceremonies in a loving and meaningful way. I will provide a certificate much like the one I provide at a bris, indicating that the child has been entered into the Covenant of Abraham. That said, when a traditional bris is possible, a second procedure - delayed hatafat dam brit (a symbolic drop of blood), is never preferable.
Proper Precautions - During my training at the Jacobi Medical Center, I was taught how to properly put on and wear surgical gloves. As well, I learned the important procedures for sterilizing non-disposable instruments. I keep up on the changes and new products in the industry over these nearly 30 years. I sustain valuable, long-standing relationships with physicians and colleagues (mohalim to whom I am willing to refer patients when I cannot fulfill the time and/or distance requirements) and these are essential to staying current and informed.
That said, it has not been “business as usual” for me and many other modern responsible mohalim. Everyone in my household takes this crisis extremely seriously. None of us leave home when it is not absolutely necessary.
I began refusing britot(sometimes pluralized brisses) for families that do not take proper precautions and limit guests to the members of the household. Please be in contact for clarification as the guidelines and recommendations are constantly being updated.
I am fortunate that my prayer-space in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania (CongregationAJ.org), made the wise decision to close the synagogue already on the Shabbat of March 14, 2020. This was early compared to most synagogues in our community. All worship, all meetings and all instruction went online that day.
What YOU can do now
Take this seriously. Plan ahead. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Expecting parents tend to receive many packages in the month before birth from well-intentioned friends and family who want you to have these items immediately when you need them.
Clean thoroughly every item (big or small) that enters your home. Practice this procedure regarding gifts and all deliveries.
Plan ahead - There is something you can do now. It may seem presumptive but we generally know who is likely to send a package, big or small. Ask family and friends to delay any non-essential gifts.
Take Precautions - Wipe down boxes thoroughly before opening the box outside your house or apartment building. This may seem extreme and admittedly, it is not (yet) part of the CDC guidelines. That said this is your baby and he is worth the extra work.
and here (the wire cutter site is a NY Times affiliate)... https://thewirecutter.com/blog/coronavirus-packages/
Dispose - Remove the contents of packages you need and dispose of the cardboard while still outside the home. Read more here about cardboard and the life of droplets. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200320192755.htm
Live Stream - If you are not already set up, get ready for live-streaming the bris ceremony and other ‘magical’ moments and milestones. There is no problem from my standpoint to have all of the bris live streamed. I will gladly assist you in positioning the phone/tablet/laptop in a way that will not compromise your modesty (for the procedure or nursing thereafter). For several years already, britot I have performed were viewed by family for whom it was impossible to be physically present. Be they great parents, cousins on a college year abroad or in one case, a father serving in Iraq, those who attend virtually report feeling they were present and a part of your ceremony. They can contribute by offering speeches and prayers and they should even hold a seudat mitzvah (the meal that is ordained for britot, b’nai mitzvah & weddings).