Activists: If Trump Participates in Circumcision, Protests Will Ensue

On March 27, Ivanka Trump gave birth to presidential candidate Donald Trump’s eighth grandchild, Theodore James Kushner. After marrying husband Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism. Donald Trump recently told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that his daughter had a “beautiful Jewish baby.”

If the family sticks with Jewish tradition, in just a few days, baby Theodore will be circumcised in a brit milah ceremony, also known as a bris, that welcomes boys into the Jewish faith.  During a bris, usually a paternal figure (like a grandfather) holds the baby as the mohel performs a circumcision, cutting the foreskin of his penis. The event is symbolic for Jews who trace their ancestry to Abraham, who according to the Book of Genesis was 99 years old and childless when God agreed to make him fertile, so long as he agreed to circumcise all future males: 

This is My covenant... every male among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations... And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that should shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant.

It’s that last part, snipping off Theodore’s baby foreskin, that has Intact Florida up in arms. Intact Florida, a chapter of The Intact Network, is a group of activists who liken infant circumcision to forced genital cutting. They call themselves “intactivists.” In a statement sent to New Times, the group urges Trump to reconsider the circumcision of baby Theodore and consider an alternative ceremony instead. Activists warn that if the baby is circumcised, they will surely protest future campaign events.

“To have someone who wishes to be president publicly celebrate the forced genital cutting of a child, knowing that child's rights were being violated, would be very disappointing. It would certainly mobilize many genital autonomy advocates to be present at his future appearances,” Intact Florida said.

No circumcision has been confirmed, and a message sent to Trump’s campaign was not immediately returned. However, since Trump is not Jewish, in the case of Theodore, someone else would have to hold the baby. Trump might be charged with bringing the baby into the room.

Typically a circumcision ceremony takes place eight days after birth. For the Trumps and Kushners, that would be Sunday, April 3. That date is important for intactivists too. It is the last day of Genital Integrity Awareness Week, when activists raise awareness about circumcision in Washington. They argue that since female genital mutilation was outlawed in 1997, male babies should not be circumcised either.

Ron Goldman, founder of the Circumcision Resource Center in Boston, has spent the past 24 years conducting studies and writing books on the psychological side effects of the procedure and lectures around the world. He's found that the effects of circumcision include anger toward parents, shame, distress, low self-esteem, avoidance of intimacy, sexual anxieties, and depression.

In 1975, the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that circumcision was not "medically necessary," and the rate has been in decline since. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 55 percent of male newborns were circumcised in 2007. Then, in 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that the benefits — such as preventing urinary tract infections and penile cancer — outweighed the risks of circumcision. Then this past December, the CDC reignited the debate when it released a report advocating for circumcision. 

A sometimes-shrill debate that has raged over the practice in recent years. But intactivists argue that there are many alternatives to circumcision. Some Jewish families are opting to instead perform a naming ceremony, called a brit shalom. Last May, Rebecca Wald, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, coauthored Celebrating Brit Shalom, the first book specifically for Jewish families opting out of circumcision. Wald’s site, Beyond the Bris, is another resource.

"Over 80% of the world's men have their natural genitals, and even Jewish families are choosing peaceful naming ceremonies more and more," Intact Florida said. “We are always disappointed to hear that any child might be subjected to forced genital cutting, and this case is no different."

It continued: “We sincerely hope that Mr. Trump's grandchild will be welcomed peacefully with a brit shalom, instead of a traditional bris. We would urge Ivanka and Jared, just as we would urge any parent considering forced genital cutting for their infant, to research the many important functions of the foreskin and the benefits of leaving their child intact.”

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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson