Bruchim is a new organization that advocates for Jewish families that don’t want to circumcise their sons.
When Elana Johnson was shopping for a synagogue three years ago, the mother of four approached a Conservative congregation in Lincoln, Nebraska, to ask about joining.
For most synagogues, such an inquiry would have been a no-brainer. But Johnson had elected not to circumcise her three sons, departing from one of Judaism’s most widely practiced traditions, and she was concerned about whether that would be a problem.
Johnson says the synagogue told her she was welcome to enroll her sons, but that without circumcision they would not be allowed to celebrate their bar mitzvah. That decision was in line with a position adopted by the Conservative movement’s Jewish law authorities in 1981 that recommended including non-circumcising families in synagogue life but denying uncircumcised boys a bar mitzvah. Johnson didn’t feel included: Her family joined a nearby Reform synagogue instead. “I want to be more observant and in a more observant community,” she said. “But I also just want my kids to be happy and welcome and feel as little judgment as possible no matter where we go.” A new organization launching this week aims to make that more likely. The group, called Bruchim (Hebrew for “welcome”), is seeking to normalize the decision not to circumcise Jewish boys, a venerable religious rite that goes back to the Bible and which is widely practiced across the spectrum of Jewish observance, even by otherwise non-observant Jewish families. “Families who are making this decision shouldn’t feel marginalized and they shouldn’t feel like they have to be secret about it,” said Lisa Braver Moss, Bruchim’s co-founder and president.