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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Find a Mohel

Like the medical field in general, the Bris Milah field prides itself on reputation building and reputation maintenance. While people may appreciate how nice you are, most people really (should) want to know if you do a good job. And the way they find out is by asking their friends who have had similar experiences, "Who did you go to? Were you pleased with the experience?"

No matter what the other person's experience, it is important to interview the person you may be interested in hiring. Just as every doctor has a personality and a style that needs to work for you, this is certainly the case for every mohel.

People find a mohel either by word of mouth, through a physician referral  (or mohel referral, if your first choice is not available), or on the Internet - through a Google search followed by research through various websites, most likely including the website of the mohel you end up choosing.

If you've done this before and had a good experience, you will likely call your mohel again.

If you did not have a good experience
- which could be a personality or style clash, or you were not pleased with circumcision results, or follow up, you will likely look elsewhere.  [While I simply don't have numbers because I don't know when people are pregnant again (though I know of some people in the earlier years who did not call again), I can say with certainty that in the last five or six years - during which time my own efficiency standards have significantly improved - I have been called on many occasions by those who had a previous experience they were unhappy with (with a different mohel), for any of the reasons just described. The feedback I have generally gotten was "you're the first mohel we would call again!"]

It is therefore important to know what will be important to you in the experience you are looking to have, what questions you need to ask (see here as well (and an anecdote here)), and what answers you are hoping to hear.

Some Mohels have their way of doing things but are flexible per your input. Some are not. If you have an open conversation, you'll likely find common ground.  The most important thing you need to have is confidence that you've made the right choice. 

You need to be comfortable with your choice, and this comes from your trusting your mohel.  

I like to have pre-birth conversations (when applicable because I am called in advance of birth), pre-bris conversations, and follow up after the bris, both in Person and over the phone.  I make a very concerted effort to avoid the problems and concerns I hear about from many parents who have shared their bris experiences and stories with me (again - from their experiences with certain other mohels).

These are not, to be sure, problems which exist across the board - many mohels do a fine job the first time, and have wonderful reputations. I am talking about the "fell between the cracks stories" which generally amount to long-term aesthetics, and any post-bris (un)forgettable moments such as the need to do another bris because it wasn't done properly the first time (not to mention hospital trips).

Sadly some people laugh about these things in retrospect, but this is no laughing matter. Many people never talk about these things because they think it is embarrassing to discuss. Stories like these need to addressed, because people have the right to know what they are possibly getting themselves into. No mohel bats 1.000%. No human being is perfect or does a perfect job every time (and one who claims to have never had a "bad story" is likely not telling the truth). But even in the circumcisions that do not come out "perfectly" there is, thank God, a significant margin allowing for human error. As a urologist recently told me, "the penis is a very forgiving organ" when it comes to post bris aesthetics. But all precautions to avoid taking off too much or too little, as well as the removal of excess mucosal membrane, need to be accounted for. There is a certain aesthetic we are looking for, and it should be achieved as closely as possible, and after the most minimal passage of time from the actual bris, if not at the bris itself.

The bottom line is this. When you do proper research, know what to ask, and have an idea of what kind of experience you're looking to have, you'll make the right decision.  [If you don't, join the ranks of the "Top Ten Mistakers"]

You need to be concerned about and inquire regarding the Mohels sterile technique (see here as well), another item not to be taken for granted.

Lastly, assuming all cosmetic results are the same (though they aren't, and believe it or not doctors who perform circumcisions generally produce the worst cosmetic results - except pediatric surgeons and urologists), remember that "mohel" is a specialist title that describes your resident expert in question much more than do titles of "Doctor" or "Rabbi." Find your man based on his Mohel track record.

I wish for you and your baby to have not only a great experience at the bris, but the cosmetic results you and he will be pleased with for a lifetime.

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