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My Son Is Refusing To Circumcise His Newborn

Dear Bintel Brief:

My son married a non-Jewish woman. They have baby boy, and decided not to have a circumcision. My husband and I have told my son and his wife how important this is to us, but they still will not do it. Recently, we have read more about the health benefits of circumcision. Do we bring up the topic again?


Ed Koch Replies:

Dear Bubbe:

The care and raising of your grandson is the responsibility of his parents, one of whom is your son.

You have the right, and you exercised it, to advise your son and daughter-in-law of your views on the need to circumcise their newborn son, your grandson, but not to press them in a way that will alienate them and perhaps deprive you of seeing them and your grandson as often as you would like.

My advice is that you not harp on this issue.

If, in the future, during a conversation, your son or daughter-in-law raises the matter, as they might, you can use that opportunity to provide factual information, your views and even talk of the need for Jews to remember who they are and not become indifferent to the traditions into which they were born and for which so many died in the last 2,000 years.

Also, you might suggest they talk to Jewish doctors familiar with the procedure. But, be careful not to antagonize either of them. The most important aspect of life is family and the love and support of one another that exists among those in that family.

There will be another opportunity for circumcision when your grandson becomes of age and, perhaps, decides on his own to affiliate more closely with the Jewish people — 13 million of us worldwide. Regrettably, at an older age, it will cause more pain to him, which, at eight days after birth, is normally dealt with by a swabbing of the baby’s lips with a little wine.

My own recollection is that the swabbing didn’t help.

But I have no regrets.

From 1978 to 1989, Edward I. Koch served as the mayor of New York. Koch, the second Jewish mayor in the city’s history, is an author of more than a dozen books, including “The Koch Papers: My Fight Against Anti-Semitism” (Palgrave, 2008), written with Rafael Medoff. A longtime advocate of Catholic-Jewish dialogue and relations, Koch also co-wrote “His Eminence and Hizzoner” (William Morrow, 1989) with the late John Cardinal O’Connor. The former mayor is a partner at the Manhattan law firm Bryan Cave.

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