Monday, 13 June 2011

Circumcision - ancient custom still today's heated debate

Hollywood star Russell Crowe has spent the last few days backing away from his tweet last week that infant circumcision is “barbaric and stupid.”
He recognised the comment - in response to a follower’s question - had left him open, albeit unfairly, to charges of anti-Semitism. Clearly the millennia-old subject remains highly contentious.
If a total ban on the procedure – or tradition or mutilation depending on your view - ever makes it on to a referendum anywhere in the US that indeed would be anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and the Evangelical Christians would be up in arms too.
All you need to know about circumcision is on this Wikipedia link. It highlights arguments for and against (such as health benefits versus psychological damage) are unproven. Emotion rather than reason stirs supporters and opponents alike.
Crowe, for example, sees nothing contradictory in his antagonism to circumcision because babies are born "perfect", while defending the rights of women to terminate their pregnancies. So though it is wrong to want your baby free of a tiny bit of skin, it's OK to suck out its life while in the womb.
The product of Anglo-Jewish and American Catholic parents, any sons born to my wife and I were always going to be circumcised by a doctor. And so it was.
But when the time comes – as I hope it will – and my children have their own babies, I will keep quiet about whether any grandsons should be circumcised - even though privately I would prefer they were.
Firstly, I don’t think it matters much either way even if it means breaking with tradition – certainly not enough to start a family feud .
Secondly, however it’s done, it is distressing for baby and parents – and I wouldn’t want to force my views on my kids.
Thirdly (and you may think this cowardly) I wouldn’t wish to be blamed if the occasion were one of the rare instances when there were complications.
It all comes down to parental choice.


  1. Where Crowe did possibly err, was that he placed circumcision in a purely Jewish context, whereas, as you have pointed out GC, it is practiced by other religions and is also today a very much recommended world-wide medical procedure, with its medical adherents stressing what they consider to be its health benefits.

  2. One could [but not necessarily] get the impression from the reported sequence of events that cicumcision might also have been discussed in the Crowe family household, with the advent of a new addition to the family.

  3. Yes GC. Check out the Mordercai Richler/Ted Kotcheff/Richard Dreyfuss 1974 film vehicle "The Apprenticeship of Dudley Kravitz" [particularly the sharply satirical montage film within a film sequence]for an historically much earlier "jewish" endorsement of the current opinion [now withdrawn] expressed by Russell Crowe. As part of that sequence, circumcision appears to be visually represented as suggesting exactly that "barbaric and stupid" ritual to which Crowe alludes. I saw the film on its release and realized that the sequence was potentially "dynamite". There appears to be no deliberate anti-semitic intent by Crowe; so speaking as a [secular] jewish person I think that Crowe is entitled to express his opinion.

  4. Apologies. [Above should read Duddy Kravitz, not Dudley Kravitz].

  5. Your point GC of circumcision v abortion. Yes possibly a touch of old fashioned male chauvenism from Crowe there. Just a touch.


What do you think? GC