Home » Elizabeth Paratz, Recent Posts, Religion and Jewish Thought

Why Brit Milah is Good for you and Davening can be Dangerous

November 12, 2009 – 6:29 pm61 Comments
Image source: www.customminifig.co.uk

Image source: www.customminifig.co.uk

This article is the third in a series on the medical benefits (or otherwise) of Jewish food, culture, and religion. In this series, Liz Paratz peruses the medical literature for evidence-based answers to the big question: Being Jewish – is it good for the Jews? This week Liz investigates Jewish clothing and ritual. (You can find the other articles in this series here and here)

Circumcision (brit milah):

The big news on circumcision is that it’s no longer just a mere tribal mark and a bris is no longer just a social occasion. Rather, ‘the snip’ is the new HIV preventer. Dr Stephen Moses won the 2008/09 Top Canadian Achievement in Health Research Prize for his work ‘Male circumcision: a new approach to reducing HIV transmission’.

This trial (which was in no way sponsored by any mohels), where men were randomized into circumcised and uncircumcised groups, was meant to finish in September 2007 – at which point any disparities in HIV incidence would be analysed to see if they were significant. However, the trial was stopped in December 2006 – because the Data Safety and Monitoring Board declared that the results were so compelling (circumcision provided a 53% protective effect against HIV) that it would be unethical for the trial to continue. It was thus immediately cut short (please excuse the pun), and all the men in the uncircumcised group offered a bris. Ultimately, all three of the randomized trials conducted (in South Africa, Uganda and Kenya) were stopped early for this reason.

Male circumcision has since been recognized as a preventative HIV measure by the World Health Organisation and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, while the Government of Kenya has established a National Task Force on Male Circumcision. It sounds much more interesting to work at than most government departments.

It is now estimated that mass male circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa could prevent more than 7.7 million people from acquiring HIV, and 3 million from dying from AIDS over the next 20 years. The benefits of circumcision are not just limited to HIV, either – it apparently affords some protection against sexually transmitted, ulcerative, and urinary tract infections as well as penile cancer. Interestingly, though, it appears that the male has to be circumcised as a baby rather than receive an adult circumcision in order to receive the protection against penile cancer.

Of note, though, is the finding from a meta-analysis of 11, 050 men that men who engage in sex during the healing period of circumcision actually place themselves at an increased risk of exposure to infections.


You might think that, when you pray, it’s an out-of-body experience, your soul is all that matters, and your body is unimportant and unaffected. Well, that might also be what the 13 patients in ‘Davener’s dermatosis: a variant of friction hypermelanosis’ thought when they first presented with their strange and seemingly inexplicable skin markings. These patients all presented complaining of what the dermatologists characterized as ‘an elongated, vertical, midline, hyperpigmented patch with indistinct borders, which was distributed along the skin overlying the bony protuberances of the inferior thoracic and lumbar vertebrae’. Investigation revealed all the students were yeshiva students (and all were very thin), while the lesion turned out to be caused by friction from davening against the yeshiva’s rigid backrests. The dermatologists named this disease (a previously unknown form of benign friction hypomelanosis) ‘davener’s dermatosis’ in the students’ honour.

Yarmulkes and their bobby-pins:

It’s exquisitely obscure, but beware the bobby-pins on your kippah. In ‘Pseudo Alopecia Areata Caused by Skull-caps with Metal Pin Fasteners used by Orthodox Jews in Israel’, 37 patients who had developed patches of baldness on their scalp were analysed. The patches were found to correspond to the placement of their yarmulke’s bobby-pins….very House. The solution was not so intricate ; the patients were advised to use big Sephardic kippot without any bobby-pins.


It seems that if you are a frum male, the phone number of a good dermatologist is a must. First there was the bobby-pin-induced pseudo alopecia areata, now there’s tefillin contact dermatitis. A series of case studies has been reported in which the leather of the tefillin triggers a ‘unilateral allergic contact dermatitis of the left arm’. Researchers have hypothesised that ‘the physical trauma associated with the tight winding of the straps for up to 1 hr per day may have predisposed our patients to have become sensitized to the chrome in the leather straps.’

On the other hand, (this reference is thanks to Ariel) traditional Chinese medicine says that tefillin are truly beneficial. In ‘Tefillin : An Ancient Acupuncture Point Prescription For Mental Clarity’, the knots and wrappings are analysed and it is determined that, ‘regardless of the belief system behind the procedure, it seems clear that putting on tefillin is a unique way of stimulating a very precise set of acupuncture points that appears designed to clear the mind and harmonise the spirit.’

The authors analysed 4 different techniques of putting on tefillin (Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Chassidic and Sefard), and determined that tefillin stimulates 3 skull points (Shenting DU-24, Shangxing DU-23 and Fengfu DU-16) as well as many of the more than 50 acupuncture points of the arm. Unfortunately, the Ashkenazi technique is least stimulating – it stimulates 3 points fewer compared to the other techniques, which all contact the same number of points.

And, notably, the Sephardi technique wins out over all the others as the strongest stimulator of the Pericardium Channel, which calms the heart and steadies the mind.

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  • Michael says:

    I find the overinterpretation of the study very troubling. Is the suggestion that people be offered circumcision as a SUBSTITUTE for education about safe sex, as a substitute for condom use? Surely nobody would claiming it’s safe to engage in unprotected sex just because you’re circumcised. So I’m not sure how helpful it could be.

    But then if there is continuing education about safe sex and if someone is using a condom, then does the circumcision add any extra protection? Possibly the only case would be when a condom breaks. But in any case it doesn’t seem that circumcision will somehow be the antidote to HIV.

    I believe the countries in question (especially Uganda) have low condom use partly due to the teachings of the Catholic church; given that basic contraception is less drastic than surgery (and will reduce HIV transmission by a lot more than 53% compared to no contraception), I think this is a huge red herring, one that might end up costing lives.

  • ariel says:

    Michael, it’s not that hard to understand the study and its findings.

    You come across as being ideologically against circumcision for some reason.

    Any objective doctor will tell you that circumcision prevents numerous infections and diseases because it gives open access to the man to clean his organ thoroughly when bathing. The foreskin has been proven to be an incubator of infectious bacteria which probably increase chances of contracting an STD.
    It was practised widely in Australia by the Irish-Catholic community until ideological opponents intervened in the last generation.

  • Liz says:

    Hi Michael,

    In the articles I read, they did indeed raise your concern. It is a worry that, as they put it, ‘circumcised men may have an exaggerated sense of protection from sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV that could influence their behaviour…’

    Consequently, in most trials they seem to be offering parallel safe-sex education and advice to emphasise that circumcision is only ANOTHER way to increase your protection, rather than being a complete substitute for all existing safe-sex practices.

    They don’t explicitly mention the issue of condom usage. As you say, it’s logical that if you’re wearing a condom, the question of if you’re circumcised becomes perhaps a bit academic. I guess one way to look at it though is that a condom is a temporary measure for HIV prevention and one that can be forgotten if alcohol / partner preference take over – the circumcision is permanent and non-negotiable….

  • Michael says:

    Ariel — you seem to be suggesting that I didn’t understand the study? I was merely pointing out that it’s not such an obvious protection against HIV. Also my “ideological” position on circumcision doesn’t have anything to do with its effectiveness at preventing HIV (and neither does the question of whether it’s effective for minimising other forms of infection).

    It’s precisely because it’s permanent and non-negotiable that I don’t see the conclusions as obvious and think that we need more of an effort to see what kinds of sex education and contraception are best (and how they interact on a social level with people who are circumcised) before suggesting going all Shimon-and-Levi on populations that are at risk of HIV.

  • rachsd says:

    Hi Michael,

    I think you’ll find that people have been trying to promote condom use for many years in countries with high prevelance of HIV, and nonetheless usage remains lower than optimal, and rates of infection remain high.

    There is also always the chance that a condom with break, or slip.

    There are multiple strategies other than circumcision currently being used already to prevent HIV transmission in addition to condoms.

  • Michael says:

    Right, I was only speaking of condom use as an example of one of the major strategies, of course there are plenty of others that have nothing to do with circumcision.

  • rachsd says:

    But Michael, your argument could be applied to a whole host of other prevention strategies. Do you oppose using any strategy other than condom promotion because it might introduce complacency regarding condoms?

  • Chaim says:

    I will try not too hard to ignore the circumcision debate which we as Jews obviously do not do because of health benefits and noting that many medical societies are actually trying to ban it.. (by the way in South Africa it is a tribal belief that intercourse with a virgin with or without her consent cures HIV)

    re: condom benefits:


    I would like to take you, Liz,to task for NOT mentioning the numerous studies on prayer whether personal or for others (blinded studies) and its benefits on patient health and recovery.

  • Liz says:

    Hi Chaim,

    Those studies are coming up next time, in the chagim / observance section :)


  • Chaim says:

    Thank you Liz ;)

  • ariel says:

    I’m inclined to go with the Pope and suggest educating towards celibacy or at least minimising the number of partners and screening properly. This is the only real prevention against STD’s. Cicumcision is only another risk minimiser and is far more reliable than other, transient measures such as condom usage.

    The HIV spread in Africa is mainly due to men having mulitple, random partners. There are also high incidences of rape. Studies have shown that safe-sex education is futile. These men will refuse to put the condom on no matter how much education they receive because they believe it isn’t “manly”.

    At the end of the day, Chaim is right: we Jews don’t do it for health reasons. And it is not our responsibility to spread the concept. If others have found health benefits in it then good luck to them.

  • Michael says:

    No, of course other preventions should be used — I mean we should be cautious about using such an irreversible and drastic procedure because then it could make people complacent about ALL the reversible procedures (which includes but is not limited to condoms).

    Ariel — exactly. If I were religious I would be a bit troubled if someone Jewish reacted to the study saying “this just proves that our tradition was good”. Even if it becomes more established (medical theories tend to go through a lot of upheaval), I would think it’s trivialising the mitzvot by boiling them down to the merely physical. I guess this is why I also don’t like the argument that (say) pork is easily contaminated and that therefore this shows the supposed wisdom of that mitzvah.

  • Hugh7 says:

    There are several concerns about those studies. The dropouts, their HIV status unknown, outnumber those infected by several times, so there’s quite enough wiggle-room for circumcision to have had no effect. In at least six African countries, a higher proportion of the circumcised men have HIV than the non-circumcised. That certainly needs explaining before anyone promotes mass circumcision. Non-sexual transmission (widespread in Africa) seems to have been ignored and all transmission assumed to be sexual.
    The estimate that 7.7 million people could be protected from HIV is just an extrapolation from the 73 men who didn’t get it after 5,400 men were circumcised. No actual field trials have been held.

    Another study suggested that circumcised men are MORE likely to transmit HIV to their womenfolk, and it certainly offers no protection in that direction, with women at greater risk already.

    Penile cancer is vanishingly rare – rarer than breast cancer in men, and rarer in non-circumcising Denmark than the US.

  • Chaim says:

    WHO and UNAIDS seem to disagree with you Hugh7. I have seen many things adopted widely in medicine with far less evidence.

    There are also multiple metanaylyses from observational studies showing benefit. These are radomised controlled studies.

    The POOLED results of this trial and 2 randomized controlled trials conducted in South Africa and Uganda showed that male circumcision decreased the incidence of HIV infection by about 56%.

    Uncircumcised men may also be at increased risk of certain sexually transmitted infections, particularly ulcerative infections, which may increase susceptibility to HIV infection.

    A study from Uganda suggests that as few as 19 circumcisions would be needed to prevent 1 case of HIV infection.

    You are also forgetting the possible benefits to women (also recent studies showed benefit)

    The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently considering recommending circumcision for baby boys born in the United States to reduce the spread of HIV…


  • Hugh7 says:

    Chaim: Resist the fallacy of appeal to authority. I have studied the studies themselves. “decreased by about 56%”? This impressive relative risk ratio reflects an a Number Needed to Treat of over 40 in Africa. It would translate to hundreds or even thousands of circumcisions wasted in Australia.

    I am not “forgettting” the possible benefits to women; The Ugandan trial found an absence of benefit and possibly increased risk to women – 18% of the partners of the circumcised men contracted HIV and only 12% of the partners of the non-circumcised men, but they cut it short before it could be statistically significant.

    Your second link itself says:

    On the basis of limited evidence there is no consensus to support the use of circumcision as a prevention strategy in the Australian epidemic.
    · Correct and consistent condom use, not circumcision, is the most effective means of reducing male-to-male transmission, female-to-male transmission, and male-to-female transmission.
    · African data on circumcision is context-specific and cannot be extrapolated to the Australian epidemic.

    There has been a backlash against the CDC’s suggetion. There are serious ethical issues involved in performing non-therapeutic surgery on healthy babies.

  • Chaim says:

    Hugh – look at the number needed to treat for statins, ace inhibitors, or any other medications…

    I dont KNOW if all Africans should be circumcised. I am actually not advocating this at all – It sounds a little crazy and imperialistic to me.. look at shchem in the Torah… All I know is that many procedures and medications have been accepted on less compelling evidence and greater NNT than this.

    A trial in the Rakai district of Uganda of male circumcision in HIV-positive men was halted early and did not have sufficient power to demonstrate any direct effects in their HIV-negative women partners. This study also found a trend suggesting that discordant couples (HIV-positive man, HIV-negative woman) who resumed sex before the recommended six weeks of abstinence were more likely to transmit HIV to the female partner than those who delayed resumption of sex. – the guys couldn’t hold out was the problem..

    My second link was put out in February before these studies were released…

  • frosh says:

    Hi Hugh7,

    Readers may notice that your name links to a rather peculiar website. Are you involved with this website, or are you just a fan of it?
    Sorry, the question is just for fair disclosure of any possible vested interests.

    Are you connected with that anti-circumcision group whom that interviewee on John Safran’s Race Relations was a member of?

  • ariel says:

    frosh, thanks for poiting that website out.

    You’d think there were more important things to occupy one’s time with. Many of these advocates claim that the foreskin enhances sexual pleasure. How would they know if they’ve never had one? And who cares? This is the most important thing in life? Or are they embarrased that they may be (mis)identified as belonging to a cultural group?

    Although, now I’m thinking of starting a website for all who are angry that their parents had them immunised without consulting them and left them with a complete dread of needles and scars on their arms. Also one for people whose parents had their ears pierced as children.

  • frosh says:

    Unless one’s planning on competing in the ancient greek olympiad (I’m not sure about the rest of you, but pankration has always been my favourite event), it’s hard to think of any disadvantage of the traditional brit milah.

  • Hugh7 says:

    Chaim: Statins and the like are used to treat diagnosed conditions; they can afford to have higher NNTs. Most accepted treatments have NNTs in single digits. It is a good question what the Ugandan trial would have found about male-to female transmission if it had not been called off. The figures at closure are certainly striking, and do not preclude the possibility that circumcision itself increased the rate. The three trials were published in 2005 and 2006, and the AFAO paper was a response to them.

    Frosh: My website is no more “peculiar” than any of the many pro-circumcision websites, less so than some – there is a circumcision fetish. I can’t identify the person you mention, but all the groups I belong to have a clause in their membership outlawing anti-Semitism, if that’s what you’re talking about. If you find anything anti-Semitic on my site, please let me know and I’ll remove it at once. A disproportionate number of Intactivists are Jews (and not “self-hating” so far as I can tell) who can think of disadvantages.

    Ariel: of course there are more important things (and less). Some people seem to think promoting circumcision is important. Not all who oppose circumcision are circumcised. With 97% of US circumcision secular (and I’d guess a similar proportion in Australia), the chance of anyone being embarrassed for the reason you give is slim.

    This is irrelevant to the only issue I want to address here, the futility (and possible danger) of promoting circumcision in the hope of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

  • Michael says:

    Many of these advocates claim that the foreskin enhances sexual pleasure. How would they know if they’ve never had one? And who cares? This is the most important thing in life?

    These words speak volumes, in fact if I encountered them by themselves I would be sure it was said in jest.

  • frosh says:


    Your words (immediately above) also speak great volumes about your own priorities and perspective.

  • Chaim says:

    Hugh (7 what?)

    For you:

    The available data are insufficient to determine whether circumcision of male partners directly reduces women’s risk of acquiring HIV, scientists conclude in a review published in the November 2009 issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The trouble with the Uganda trial here specifically asking this question is that it would never had reached sufficient statistical power so it was stopped.

    Having a larger foreskin was associated with a higher risk of HIV infection – Uganda.. but findings need to be replicated

    The benefit here would be ONLY really in areas high levels of HIV and low rates of male circumcision.

    All three trials were halted early because the evidence of a protective effect was so strong that it was considered unethical to ask the study participants in the control group to continue waiting to be circumcised. – ie the results could have been even higher!

    * In South Africa, a trial in Orange Farm enrolled 3,000 men ages 18 to 24. The circumcised men were approximately 60 percent less likely to acquire HIV than the uncircumcised men .
    * In Uganda’s Rakai District, in a study among 4,996 men ages 15 to 49, circumcision reduced the risk of HIV infection by approximately 51 percent.
    * In Kenya, 2,784 men ages 18 to 24 joined a study in Kisumu. HIV risk was reduced by approximately 59 percent among those who were circumcised.

    An ongoing follow-up study found that this protective effect was sustained over 42 months, reducing men’s chances of becoming infected with HIV by 64 percent

    I am sorry but a risk reduction in medicine of 50 – 64% is HUGE!!!!

    Again the jury is still out. But the results are impressive and many more studies will now be funded… we will wait and see. Having said that, if I know a person who is not the most cautious in safe sex and does not want to be celibate but lives in an area OR community with high HIV rates I would certainly recommend circumcision. Also note that current specialists believe that 20-25% of HIV is undiagnosed.

    For most in the western world the studies are irrelevant. I will ask my HIV specialist buddies today what they recommend and get back to you.

  • Chaim says:

    Mammograms- radiation to a women’s breast and considerable discomfort.
    Screening with mammography significantly decreased cancer specific, but not total, mortality. The number needed to screen for mammography to prevent a death from breast cancer was 2451 for 5 years for women aged 50-59.

    For every 100 people in one Lipitor trial, which lasted 3 1/3 years, three people on placebos and two people on Lipitor had heart attacks. The difference credited to the drug? One fewer heart attack per 100 people. So to spare one person a heart attack, 100 people had to take Lipitor for more than three years. The other 99 got no measurable benefit. Or to put it in terms of a little-known but useful statistic, the number needed to treat (or NNT) for one person to benefit is 100. From other studies it is even up to 500!

    Avandia NNT >1000 to prevent one heart attack or or other complications

    Anything over an NNT of 50 is worse than a lottery ticket; there may be no winners. Here in some studies NNT = 5-15 and 19 in the one above…

  • Michael says:

    Well if anyone thinks sex should be considered unimportant (for others — I understand it’s not important to some individuals which is obviously fine) then I would naturally consider that out of order and feel sorry for the attitude. And to top it off, the Jewish teachings tend to go against this anyway, because they consider it an important part of life.

  • Chaim says:

    Michael ??? Who said sex is not important… Studies show there is no loss of sexual satisfaction.

    The fact that the men couldn’t keep their penis in their pants for six weeks and therefore increased the risk of transmission to the women is telling….about us men.

    Hugh: You are obviously as Frosh pointed out coming from a bias with an agenda yet with respect to these studies all you could find is possible “wiggle-room” to show that the benefit may not be there… As a Jew who will continue to circumcise my sons I have no problem looking at the evidence with an open mind and follow the scientific evidence wherever it will lead with respect to recommendations for others…

    One thing mentioned above which everyone should understand with respect to all treatments is “number needed to treat”. The medical literature always shows these dramatic risk reductions but always look at the absolute risk reduction and the number need to treat in order to cure one person eg 2 patients with a rare illness and the drug cures one is a 50% reduction but if the drug cost billions of dollars, has side effects and the studies are poor then you really need to question its significance and benefit despite a supposedly 50% cure rate.

    Mammograms which are radiation to a woman’s breast every 1-2 yrs for decades and cause considerable discomfort if not pain have a NNT of around 2500. That is for every 2-3 thousand done one breast cancer will be detected and life saved. Less than 5% of women with screen-detectable cancers have their “lives saved” by screening mammography.

    Statins for hyperlipidemia to prevent heart attacks etc… have a NNT anywhere from 100 – 500. these drugs which you are basically on for life cause muscle cramps, abdominal upset and generally feeling unwell…

    SO a NNT of 5-15 in some circumcision studies and 19 in the one mentioned above is pretty good.

    Note: Drug companies always control the data released for their benefit and $$$$….

  • Chaim says:

    ps. I spoke the the HIV specialist attached to my medical clinic.

    from HIS perspective the studies in the USA which have not shown benefit do not make sense and he would recommend circumcision for prevention of HIV…

  • frosh says:

    Hi Michael,

    I certainly wouldn’t recommend that circumcised men in Africa (or whereever) who are having sex should not use a condom. However, if your argument is that circumcision should not be used as it would lower condom use, well that is a bit like a road safety campaigner saying:
    “Do not put airbags in cars, as people will become complacent about using seat-belts.”

  • frosh says:


    No, I wasn’t implying anything related to anti-Semitism. I guess if you are not in Australia, you probably will not know the tv programme I was referring to.

    I’m not familiar with these pro-circumcision websites, and until your website, and that John Safran episode, I was not familiar there were anti-circumcision groups either.

    Personally, I find the whole obsession a little bizarre.

  • Israel says:



    Reasons not to Circumcise: We are educated and enlightened Jews who realize that the barbaric, primitive, torturous, and mutilating practice of circumcision has no place in modern Judaism. Rabbi Moses Maimonides himself acknowledged that circumcision is done to desensitize the penis and curb masturbation. In ancient Judaism, you could be murdered for disobeying your husband or parents, blasphemy, homosexuality and other so-called crimes that we now realize are not crimes, but freedoms of expression. Jews are some of the smartest people in the world. We are 1/3rd of 1% of the population, yet we hold 33% of Nobel prizes. We are smart enough to understand that mutilating a little boys’ penis is not an acceptable practice in modern times. Bris Shalom
    Jewish Join our email List
    Medical Important Links
    Legal Anti-circ stickers
    Sexual Contact Us
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    Treatise on Abraham

    Do not be afraid to be the first to change and lead your parents, family and community into modern times! Your primary responsibility is to take care of your son, not to satisfy other people’s need for tradition. Your community will eventually see the light.

    Do not be afraid to think for yourself. Circumcision is barbaric and you are a better parent for not mutilating your son’s penis.

    Don’t be afraid to question tradition rather than blindly accepting it. Circumcision continues in our faith because of indoctrination, fear of change, and so-called tradition. Remember that our religious leaders are the products of this same indoctrination.

    If you were told to circumcise your daughter’s vulva, would you blindly obey? Or would you question the order and choose to protect your daughter? Shouldn’t we treat our boys with the same consideration and respect?

    Do not be afraid of divine punishment. God did not mandate circumcision. In the original version of the Torah, the book of J, circumcision is not even mentioned. Fallible men devised circumcision as a way to curb masturbation.

    Even Rabbi Maimonides acknowledged this fact. Here’s what he had to say about circumcision:

    Maimonides, Moses
    The Guide of the Perplexed
    Translated by Shlomo Pines
    The University of Chicago Press, 1963
    (Many scholars consider this to be
    the most authoritative translation to date.)

    Similarly with regard to circumcision, one of the reasons for it is, in my opinion, the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question, so that this activity be diminished and the organ be in as quiet a state as possible. It has been thought that circumcision perfects what is defective congenitally. This gave the possibility to everyone to raise an objection and to say: How can natural things be defective so that they need to be perfected from outside, all the more because we know how useful the foreskin is for that member? In fact this commandment has not been prescribed with a view to perfecting what is defective congenitally, but to perfecting what is defective morally. The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision. None of the activities necessary for the preservation of the individual is harmed thereby, nor is procreation rendered impossible, but violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened. The Sages, may their memory be blessed, have explicitly stated: It is hard for a woman with whom an uncircumcised man has had sexual intercourse to separate from him. In my opinion this is the strongest of the reasons for circumcision.

  • Henry Herzog says:

    Israel, being circumcised certainly hasn’t stopped me from, you know what, and enjoying it, but don’t tell anyone, please. If we follow through with your argument about modern Judaism than pigs should be kosher and there should be no Judaism.

    By the way Israel, are you circumcised? and if so, do you remember it and do you have sex? And if you have sex how do you know it’s not as pleasurable if you weren’t circumcised? You don’t, do you.

  • Henry Herzog says:

    P.S. The way things are going, the next organization to form, I reckon, will be Jews against Judaism.

  • Israel says:

    The implicit message … is that your body henceforth belongs to the tribe and not merely to yourself…. That so primitive and brutal a rite continues to be practiced nearly automatically in modern times when most medical evidence indicates that it is unnecessary, painful, and dangerous suggests that circumcision remains a mythic act whose real significance is stubbornly buried in the unconscious. That men and women who supposedly love their sons refuse to examine and stop this barbaric practice strongly suggests that something powerfully strange is going on here that is obscured by a conspiracy of silence.
    – Sam Keen, Fire in the Belly: on being a man p.30, New York: Bantam/Doubleday, 1992.

  • JH says:

    [Ed: This comment contains material more usually found in publications such as Penthouse Forum (at least I assume so based on pop cultural references, not having read that publication myself). While I’m not sure if the comment warrants removal, it probably warrants some kind of warning to our readers – so there you have it]

    [Ed: Furthermore, a google search has revealed this is the work of a Jess H, first published in The Cornell Daily Sun - in the interests of not being seen to be plagiarising, we need to include that citation]

    A couple of summers ago, I found myself in the back of my Jeep with a Canadian, rebounding out of a very serious relationship. Things were heating up and hands were starting to venture south. I slowly undid his belt, then the button and zipper on his jeans. I reached my hand inside his pants and grabbed on. But something seemed different … there was a lot of skin down there. I poked around for a hot second, then quickly removed my hand. Being the nice Jewish girl that I am, I went home that night to Google and typed in the nine letters I hoped would prove me wrong: f-o-r-e-s-k-i-n.
    I’m going to assume that unless you’ve been with a foreign student, you haven’t had much experience with foreskin. About 80 percent of American children are circumcised, but this practice isn’t shared by the rest of the world. Being American often comes with the belief that the way we do things is the only way to do things, so most women have absolutely no idea what to do when they get a handful of excess packaging. Let me explain, so you too can enjoy the variety the world of penises has to offer.
    Foreskin is the retractable layer of skin that covers the top of the penis when it is not erect. To me, it looks like a tube sock around the penis, or even a turtleneck (the part of the animal, not the clothing) that joins the rest of the penis at the beginning of the shaft. When a man is circumcised, the tube sock is cut off, leaving the tip of the penis exposed. If you’re Jewish like me, we do this in the middle of our living room, and invite family and friends over to watch.
    OK, I’m about to get down and dirty, so bear with me. Because the foreskin covers the tip of the penis, it preserves sensitivity that is lost when one is circumcised. The penis on a circumcised man constantly rubs against his pants, hands and other people, causing the tip to become more calloused than an uncircumcised man’s penis, which is protected by the foreskin.
    As a result, uncircumcised men have greater sensation in their penis. This means that they are more likely to suffer from premature ejaculation than their non-foreskinned friends; but, at the same time, circumcised men are more likely to have prolonged erections without ejaculation, proving my personal theory that penises are stupid.
    Sex with the uncircumcised is believed to be a more enjoyable experience for women as well, and I have to agree. Although a turtleneck is never sexy in any situation, it’s a small price to pay for the benefits of foreskin. When an uncircumcised penis becomes erect, the tip expands out of the foreskin, leaving excess skin on the shaft. During intercourse this excess skin moves with the woman, while the rest of the penis moves with the thrusting of the man — kinda like one of those water weenies that are always in aquarium gift shops.
    Of course, I didn’t know any of this at the time of my first foreskin exposure. So, I solicited the help of my sluttiest, summer-camp-attending Canadian friends to explain what to do with a penis in a sleeping bag. “It’s like a push pop,” she told me. “You just pull down on the extra skin and enjoy the delicious treat inside.” I didn’t like the idea that I didn’t know what I was doing down there, but I decided it would be a learning experience and I should give it a shot.
    Several nights later, my exotic Canadian lover and I found ourselves in the backseat of my Jeep once again. But this time I was prepared: I had the ammo of the advice of a slut and several somewhat disturbing Google images. I did my best to deal with the situation at hand, and it seemed as though he was enjoying himself. But the most surprising part was that I liked it. And I’ve been a huge spokesperson for the uncircumcised ever since.

  • Chaim says:

    JH: Well you and your exotic partner have a much higher risk for getting HIV… and it sounds like you do not use condoms either…

  • frosh says:


    I find it amusing that in the USA, “Canadian” passes for “exotic.”

  • Chaim says:

    Israel: Actually your body belongs to G-d and current medical evidence such as above actually refutes your silly comment…

  • Israel says:

    Dr. Fleiss is a well known professor of pediatrics in Los Angeles. And he also is also another person of Jewish extraction, that’s against ‘male genital mutilation.’
    The Case Against Circumcision
    By Paul M. Fleiss, M.D., M.P.H.
    Mothering, Issue 85

     [Ed: We have removed the full article that you posted in this comment, but left the link. Please understand that posting full articles may be a violation of copyright. Posting the link is both sufficient and preferrable.]

  • Chaim says:

    Israel – congratulations you found a doctor to support your useless cause…
    WHO, UNAIDS support routine circumcision.
    CDC is currently looking at whether to recommend circumcision for all male children.
    “Circumcision is not essential to a child’s well-being at birth, even though it does have some potential medical benefits” – the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They just say “the data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision”. this is a HUGE change from previous guidelines and obviously if further data comes out they would support routine circumcision.
    Most doctors think it is at the LEAST harmless (any procedure has risks of complications) and LIKELY beneficial.
    I think you need to start looking for a new cause…

  • Chaim says:

    p.s. read about Fleiss here
    Fleiss is the father of “Hollywood madam” Heidi Fleiss. In 1994, Paul Fleiss was charged with helping to conceal the income from his daughter’s prostitution ring by depositing the money in his name.[2] Fleiss pled guilty to three felony charges of conspiracy and bank fraud,[3] and was sentenced to one day in prison and community service.[1] Following the felony convictions, the Medical Board of California placed Fleiss on probation for 1 year and publicly reprimanded him for “unprofessional conduct” and “dishonesty”.
    Subsequently, in 2005, Fleiss was investigated for his role in the death from untreated AIDS of Eliza Jane Scovill, the daughter of late AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore, who was HIV-positive.[4] Against standard medical practice, Scovill was never tested for HIV, and Fleiss was investigated by the Medical Board of California for gross negligence in her care as well as in the care of a second child who was also HIV-positive.[1][5] After receiving over 100 letters of support for Fleiss from patients and parents, the Medical Board reached a settlement in which Fleiss was not found grossly negligent, but did concede a failure to maintain adequate medical records and agree to regular review by an outside physician acting as a monitor.
    Fleiss is on the board of Maggiore’s AIDS denialist organization, Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives. – People who deny HIV causes AIDS..

  • Chaim says:

    Eliza Jane Scovill died age three years and five months from HIV/AIDS although her mother refused to test her (autopsy was done). Her pediatrician PAUL FLEISS  failed to test Eliza Jane for HIV (or to document her parents’ refusal of testing),  failed to counsel her mother to avoid breast-feeding at any time during the three years she breast-fed her daughter, given the risk of transmitting HIV, conformed to standard medical practice in Fleiss’ care of a second HIV-positive child.
    Sounds more like a “murderer” than a respected doctor….

  • David says:

    Your comments underline the fact that nobody needs to be circumcised to be a Jew, and gives force to the argument of some Jews that the Holocaust marked an end of Jews’ need to be marked with a sign of their religion.

  • Israel says:

    [Ed: Israel, This is the THIRD time you have posted a long artilce when you could have simply posted the link. We do not want to have to warn you again. Pasting large articles on our site may be a violation of copyright law. We are not prepared to continue to edit your comments. We have (for the final time) removed your article but left a link. Next time we will simply remove the entire comment (far quicker and easier for us)]

    A Jewish mother finds the agony of not cutting is visceral and deep
    The Oregonian Staff

    The complete article is available at: http://www.circumstitions.com/Jewish3.html#stacey

  • Chaim says:

    Israel – why do you keep posting these outdated irrelevant articles. Your previous one was originally published in 1997..
    this one is outdated and inaccurate..
    Get a life!

  • I’m sure if you looked back 100 years or so, you’d find that the medical view on circumcision oscillates on a regular basis. Life fashion trends, it comes and goes. There could be a generational cycle occurring here as well, because fathers often choose for their sons to be “like them” in this regard.

    Circumcision has been such a fundamental tenet of Judaism since Avraham – hard to believe that some Jews decide to take a stand against it.

  • On the original topic, I’m surprised you haven’t discussed the link between shockelling, Jewish classical texts with small Rashi print, and short sightedness. I thought the constant and regular shockelling movement caused the eye to have to refocus a lot, and this in turn led to shortsightedness. Has anyone done a study on the proportion of Jews who wear glasses compared to the general population?

  • Henry Herzog says:

    This really is a matter of belief. I believe that all jewish males need to be circumcised to perpetuate their Jewish heritage. Israel does not and finds nonsense arguments to support his case. Israel, if you have been circumcised, it appears that it effected you deeply, I mean, you appear really obsessed with the whole subject.

  • frosh says:

    Hi David,

    The glasses thing is interesting – I’m confident that Jews wear corrective lenses at far higher rates than general Australian pop.

    I remember back in high-school history class, we were scheduled to have a test that happened to coincide with a Jewish holiday.  When the teacher announced the date, there was some calling-out amongst a noisy and classroom that some of us would not be at school that date because of a Jewish holiday.

    The teacher, somewhat confused by all the noise, asked for whoever would not be attending to school that date to stand up.

    The three Jewish boys stood up.

    At that point I recall another boy remarking that it was the three students who in the class who wore glasses. I’m not sure if the remark was intended as a mildly racist dig, or just an innocent observation.

    Now none of these boys were in the habit of shockelling.

    I guess you’d have to do a three group comparison.

    General pop vs. General Jewish pop vs. Shockelling pop :-)

  • Israel says:

    “Moses and Monotheism” by Sigmund Freud

    Circumcision is a symbolical substitute of castration, a punishment which the primaeval father dealt his sons long ago out of the awfulness of his power, and whosoever accepted this symbol showed by so doing that he was ready to submit to his father’s will, although it was at the cost of a painful sacrifice.
    Sigmund Freud, “Moses and Monotheism”
    Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-analysis, 1939

  • Liz says:

    Hi David,
    When I was originally running search terms through PubMed, nothing came up on shockelling or even just ‘Jews’ and ‘eyesight’ ;  it seems like at this point there’s only anecdotal evidence.
    As Frosh points out, there could be a few confounders, but I guess they could be controlled for….or a prospective trial could be designed where people are randomised to shockell or not shockell. I guess it would only be a single-blind trial though  (pun intended), since the subjects would obviously know which group they were in.
    If you have any articles, I’d love to read them.

  • Henry Herzog says:


    Itsn’t there a saying about, you know what, causing blindness? Could that have anything to do with a greater proportion of Jewish blokes wearing glasses? And if so, doesn’t that not prove, Mr/Mrs. Israel, that sex,  whether with or without a partner, having a circumcised penis is still pretty, pretty, pretty good.

  • Abraham says:

    The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia

    Recommendation: Best medical practice includes the following standards of practice for doctors who are asked to circumcise male infants:
    •      Keep up‐to‐date on the issues surrounding infant male circumcision, including the therapeutic medical indications and legal and ethical issues.
    •      Advise parents that the current medical consensus is that routine infant male circumcision is not a recommended procedure; it is non‐therapeutic and has no medical prophylactic basis; it is a cosmetic surgical procedure; current evidence indicates that previously‐thought prophylactic public health benefits do not out‐weigh the potential risks.
    •      Provide objective medical information about the risk of complications and potential harm in infant male circumcision.
    •      Discuss the new ethical considerations of infant’s rights and proxy consent in a non‐
    therapeutic procedure.
    •      Listen to parents and consider the basis of their request, which may be based on religious or cultural practices.


  • Chaim says:

    Abraham… –  like this is really your name…

    You are talking about ROUTINE male infant circumcision – there is no chiddush here – everyone agrees.

    It is clear that people at higher risk for contracting HIV would benefit from circumcision.  Obviously people in countries with high HIV incidence e.g. in Africa will likely benefit. Those in western countries – e.g  Australia, USA, Canada are unlikely to benefit.

    Jews will always circumcise their sons NOT for medical reasons. If people try to ban circumcision it will go underground and lead to more complications and problems like we had with abortions. This is why it will never happen.

  • Henry Herzog says:

    Yeah Abrabam, It’s really simple: Just like Jewish boys have bar-mitzah, Jews go to shul on Yom-Kippur, and eat matzos on passover they circumcise their sons. OK; been doing it for thousands of years.

  • Cathryn Vise says:

    Never mind whether this study will encourage men to get circumcised. 

    I suppose this study will encourage women to choose circumcised bed partners. 

    I suppose this will be a boon to Jewish men seeking to be chosen.  No pun intended. 

  • frosh says:

    Why do people write/say “No pun intended” when in the vast majority of times they mean “Pun fully intended”?

  • Cathryn Vise says:

    I can’t speak for others, but when I say “no pun intended” it means I didn’t notice the pun until I saw it on the page.  The pun was unplanned, but I don’t object to it, so I leave it. 

    That to me is very different from having planned to pun to start with.  

    For one thing, it means that although the pun may be cute, I am not hanging the meaning of my post on the coincidental sameness of the word or sound.  

    As for others, I don’t know what they mean by it.   

  • pun inteded says:

    all this discussion about grammar makes me feel like i am reading the letters page in the green guide.

  • I think it’s because puns are considered a low level of humour, and therefore it’s good ettiquette to “apologize” for using them.

  • Cathryn Vise says:

    The really good puns are the ones that lend meaning to the sentence or paragraph. 

    If they don’t, they must either be omitted or disavowed. 

    That’s my philosophy.  Others may have other reasons for saying “no pun intended”. 

    If so, let them say why they say it.

    Now how about getting back to the topic of, what, disease?  Condoms?  Bris? 

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