Joint Statement on Brit Milah in the Context of COVID-19 Restrictions

Ontario Liberal-minded Association of Mohalim, and Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto

Ontario Liberal-minded Association of Mohalim, and Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto

Brit milah is a very important ritual which has been part of Jewish life for over 4,000 years. Brit milah is done on the eighth day of life, and involves a ceremony in which a circumcision is done and the baby receives his Hebrew name. Traditionally, there is a minyan present, and a festive meal follows the ceremony. The Reform Mohalim abide by the standards of our Brit Mohalim.

 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, gatherings of people are recognized as dangerous, and the usual format of a brit milah contravenes the necessary social distancing which is crucial to preventing spread of the virus.  Our goal is to preserve as much of the tradition and spirituality of brit milah as possible, while also optimizing the preservation of life that is so inherent to Judaism. This urgent situation demands that new temporary practices be instituted for the duration of the crisis.

 

There are three options for babies born during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Have the baby circumcised in the hospital before discharge, if the hospital is permitting circumcisions. Some Rabbis may offer an online blessing on the eighth day. The Hebrew naming ceremony, as well as a small ritual known as hatafat dam brit, would then be done with family and friends at a later time.
  2. If both parents and mohel/et feel comfortable, bris can be done on the eighth day in the home, on the condition that only the parents and the baby are present. This is only possible if both the mohel and the parents of the baby do not have symptoms of COVID-19, have not tested positive for COVID-19 for the past 2 weeks, and are not under self-isolation due to travel or contact with someone who has COVID-19. Friends and family can join virtually.
  3. If neither option 1 or 2 are possible, the baby can be circumcised after the COVID-19 restrictions are over. If this doesn’t occur before he is more than 6-12 weeks old, the circumcision would be done under general anesthetic when he's around a year of age. Some Rabbis may offer an online blessing on the eighth day having received a commitment from the parents for a later circumcision.

We recognize that the situation is changing rapidly from day to day. There are risks related to doing a circumcision in the hospital, or a bris in the home on the eighth day during this current crisis; and there are different risks related to delaying the bris. The decision must be made by the parents and the mohel based on a balance of risks in their individual situation and environment. We pray that this pandemic may soon pass and we can all celebrate these beautiful moments together again.