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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Right to Choose

I later wrote a Part II to this

You're a young parent. You are about to have your first son (or your second, or your third, etc). You know you're going to be making a bris. You'd like to do research and hire the person you want to do the job. Then mom or dad call and say "Use our friend. He was good enough for you back then." You're thinking, "I don't want a guy who is old enough to be my parent (or grandparent). I want someone who can relate to my experience." Not that the person being recommended is not a good mohel. But your needs are different. [Of course I am not suggesting a mohel should be judged by his age. You should get the right mohel for what you need]

He's your baby. You have the right to choose.

Getting Ahead Means Constant Education - Static is a Formula for Mediocrity

In order to get to the top of one's field, every professional has an obligation to continue one's education. As one mohel put it to me after I had observed him work, "Please tell me what I am doing wrong. I am always learning." Mind you, this man has been a mohel for over 25 years. So I admire him for being able to say this, even though he certainly didn't need any comments of mine.

When you're put on the spot like that, it is hard to be honest. Especially when you don't really know the guy.

So I told him, "Here are the things I would have done differently. I would wear sterile gloves (as opposed to your method of wearing no gloves and using your bare hands). I would have a wastebasket under the table."

What I did not say was, "I would make sure the wine and all materials are there before I begin. I would know who all the key players are (i.e. who is the father, and who are the grandparents) before I begin the ceremony. And I would not delay the start of the ceremony twenty minutes because I am not ready."

I once mentioned to my father that a person who had been reading the megillah on Purim for thirty years must really know it well. My father said, "Yes. Except he's been making the same mistakes for thirty years."

The World of Competition or 'Why Settle for Mediocrity?'It is amazing to me that people settle for mediocrity just because that is what they are used to.

Imagine this scene: There is one kosher restaurant in town. The food is OK (not great), the service is borderline (leaning towards lousy), and the prices are a little higher than reasonable (bordering on ridiculous). You go there only because you don't know anything else, and because you like to eat out every once in a while, but mostly because there are no other options

But don't you think you'd be checking circulars, ads, newspapers, yellow pages, the internet to see if a different kosher restaurant is opening? Let's say this mediocre restaurant is "all you ever knew." Can't you imagine that a different option might be an improvement? Especially if it is looking to compete with what has been, until now, the "only show in town?"

That is a depiction of restaurants.

Why I Prefer to Promote the Finer Qualities of A New Age Mohel

When I was a younger (not as busy) mohel, a friend of mine once said to me in commiseration "Does it really matter if a sixty year old [makes the cut] or if you do it?" His point was that the cosmetic result will be the same. The sixty+ year old in question (a certain mohel in NY), has a reputation and an endless supply of clients. Does it really matter to a young family if they get the thirty year veteran or the (then) five year veteran? All they want is for the bris to go well and for the baby to heal nicely!

Not really.

The New Age Mohel is in tune to modern sensitivities and sensibilities. He uses the most up to date methods of sterilization. He is neat and polished He is extremely aware of the clients he serves, their particular needs, and the needs of their guests who join in their celebration.

And he knows what new parents really want to get out of the bris experience.

What Do Parents Really Want?

New parents want to be treated with dignity and respect. They want the mohel to give them the time of day. They want a person who will sit with them and talk to them, and address their concerns. They want a person who will explain to them the process, who will raise and discuss important issues, who will give them the information they need to feel most comfortable with the process of the bris. They want a mohel who will help guide them and show them different options, to help them understand and find what they want.

They want to see that the mohel practices with a sterile technique. They want to see that he works in a clean space. They want to see that he treats their baby gently. They want to see that they and their baby are not just a number - that they are treated like human beings, like parents who have just had the amazing experience of birth, and who want to have an equally meaningful experience with the bris.

They want follow up. They want the mohel to visit the baby after the bris. To see that everything is OK. To give clear instructions. To call. To be in touch. To care.

See here for a list of good questions to ask a mohel


Too many people go into the bris experience with too little information. You would never choose a surgeon for yourself without doing research: why pick a mohel for your newborn without doing research?

The bad stories and experiences are usually swept under the rug.

People are embarrassed to talk about their son's penis and his bris.I have heard the following statements from (too many) people who did no research before hiring someone for their son's bris. No one is perfect. But these statements should never have to be said after your son's bris.


"The diaper was a mess after the bris."
"The mohel did not give us clear instructions."
"There was a bleeding problem."
"The baby got an infection from the bris." [THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN]
"The mohel was not in touch."
"The mohel did not practice good personal hygiene, or in the way he conducted the bris."
"The mohel told us how to take off the bandage, and instructed us over the phone."
"The mohel was insensitive to our needs."
"I wish I had done more research."
"I wish I had even explored other options."

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

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