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Sue Fishkoff
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Chicken soup for the Jewish masses

LocalPublished: 02 March 2006

Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald started Shabbat Across America 10 years ago. This year, 65,000 participants have signed up. photo courtesy of NJOP-

Shabbat program celebrate 10 years

Tonight, some 650 American congregations from across the denominational spectrum will all do something together. They'll each offer an introductory, abridged Shabbat service and hold a communal meal, and they'll do it under a common name, "Shabbat Across America."


Judaic texts, precedent may leave room for mohelets

LocalPublished: 19 January 2006

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. – Jewish law does not prohibit a woman from serving as mohel, although it seems to be discouraged.

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin of Kehillat Yavneh in Los Angeles points to Yoreh De'ah '64:1 in the Shulchan Aruch.

"Two opinions are brought," he says, one that says a brit milah done by a woman is kosher, and one that says it's not.

"But both agree that whenever a Jewish male is available, a woman should not be used," he concludes.

That preference for a male has, over time, become custom that assumed the force of law. It's the way things are done: In Orthodox circles, a brit milah takes place in the presence of a minyan, or group of 10 Jewish men. Women often stay in a separate room during the ceremony, or in a part of the main room separated by a mechitza, and join the men afterwards.


Female mohels snip preconceptions

LocalPublished: 19 January 2006

Dr. Lillian Schapiro, left, performs the brit milah ceremony of Brody Weiss, in January '004 in Atlanta, as Brody's father Mike holds him. photos by Sue Fishkoff/JTA

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. – When Dr. Debra Weiss-Ishai watched her son's brit milah two years ago, she thought to herself, "I could do this better."

Not just technically, although as a pediatrician she had done numerous medical circumcisions. She felt she could bring a warmth and spiritual beauty to the ritual in ways her old-school mohel, who she says "rushed through" the ceremony, did not.

Last April Weiss-Ishai completed the Reform movement's Berit Mila Program, an intensive 35-hour certification course for physicians and nurse-midwives at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. She now has performed seven or eight Jewish ritual circumcisions in the San Francisco Bay area.

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