Mother-In-Law Plans 'Surprise Bris' Knowing Mom Is Against Circumcision


When you become a parent, you make decisions for your children based on what your beliefs are. Everything you decide to do for your children should align with your personal feelings. For parents of boys, the decision to circumcise your son is yours and yours alone. But because the choices surrounding circumcision are very controversial, people will offer their opinion anyway. In a letter to Slate's Care and Feeding column, a woman wrote in asking for advice. Her future mother-in-law (FMIL) was planning to surprise the woman and her fiancee with a surprise bris for their son. A bris is a Jewish tradition that includes circumcision.

The woman in question calls herself a "casual Christian," and her fiancee is a "Reform Jew." Reform Jews tend to be more progressive in their thinking, while upholding certain traditional ceremonies. But as she states in her letter, they are both in agreement about not circumcising their soon to be born son. But his family is allegedly very upset about the lack of a bris “Because it’s a Jewish rite of passage!” she says.

Her soon to be sister-in-law was the one to spill the beans about the ceremony. This is especially important, given the fact that the FMIL was planning on having the ceremony at the couple's house. Tradition dictates the ceremony take place at home, with a mohel — someone trained in both the religious aspect of the ceremony, but also actually performing a circumcision. A bris also happens eight days after birth, meaning one week postpartum.

According to the woman, she has given her FMIL multiple reasons why the bris wouldn't be happening.

"I’ve tried reasoning that I won’t be up for hosting 20-plus people seven days after giving birth; I’ve tried explaining that we just won’t be circumcising; I’ve tried making the argument that it’s not sterile for a random rabbi to cut our newborn on the dining room table. I’ve done everything short of saying “Because I don’t want to host a penis party to expose my son to the world,"" she claims.

But still, she fears her reasons have fallen on deaf ears. She claims that such behavior isn't uncommon and that her fiancee has stepped in previously. But she feels that as the baby's mother, she should be the one shouldering the burden of refusal.

Columnist Nicole Cliffe makes an excellent point. "your fiancé is the son of the lady who appears to be planning to toss you a 'surprise' bris, and it’s absolutely his job to have this conversation," she writes, advising the talk should happen in person.

Cliffe goes on to make an excellent point about when couples of different religious backgrounds come together, it can cause friction.

"I also think, like so much outrageous behavior, it’s coming from a place of fear. That your family will be closer to your grandson, that your holidays will take precedence over the ones she raised your fiancé to celebrate, etc," Cliffe suggests.

She also urges the woman to have her fiancee assure his mother that they will uphold some Jewish traditions. Again, any religious choices should and can only be decided by the couple. But he has to be the one to make that clear.

Hopefully, this poor woman doesn't have to deal with any of the drama. Could you imagine a group of people showing up at your door a week after giving birth and expecting to play hostess? No thanks!

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