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Jewish Adoptive Families

Conversion of newborn boy

Hi All-

Questions so many questions.  I am matched in a domestic private adoption.  Baby boy is due Nov 9.  He may be born slightly premature and has been exposed prenatally to methadone. He will be born outside of my state and therefor require ICPC before we can come home.  Due to the potential for medical complication and sensory concerns I am contemplating having the circumscision done in the hospital.  Most likely it will not be done by a Mohel.

I would like to have a ritual and naming shortly after we come home and then go to the mikvah at about 8 mos (I’ve heard that is a good age).  Has anyone had their son circumscised in the hospital and then done a conversion?  What is the process?



Mazel tov on both the upcoming arrival and your thinking about how you want to handle this definitive Jewish ritual!   

Roll it back a bit and think of how a primary value of Judaism is to put one’s health/life first over other commandments. Would it be in the best health interest of your son to have the circumcision done in the hospital?  Perhaps yes, given that he might be premature and has had exposure to methodone.  Also, it is in your son’s best interest to have a positive bonding experience with you—an anxious feeling around this would not contribute to his attachment and bonding, I assert.  Good for you that you are thinking of it now.       

I would say that a mohel who is sensitive, well trained and experienced, could complete this sacred ritual as well, similarly to a physician, if that is what you want and the legalities of the situation provide for that at the 8th day.     

I sense your deep concern about it and understand.  I, too, faced this question.  A brit milah was delayed for my son (our first) BUT handled as soon as it was possible by a mohel and the conversion mikvah months later.  It was one of our first decisions regarding bringing up our child as a Jew—an important one, one that lots of people could have an opinion about BUT in the end,  we chose what worked best for our son’s health.  Our family and community were supportive in this regard and I trust you have that as well. 

Again, mazel tov!  I am thrilled to think of a new youngster joining us, the larger Jewish world community!  May he grow strong in the traditions of our people!

Posted by Susan David on Oct 12, 2012 at 12:42am

We had similar choice to make.  Our little boy came home to us at 13 days old.  Clearly, we missed the day 8 deadline.  We made the choice with the advice of our rabbi to hold off on the circumcision until the 30 days of the revocation period had passed.  Our rabbi counseled us that adoption itself is a mitzvah, so the delay in the circumcision was understandable.  We held off on the final conversion in the mikvah until he was 6 months old—only because it took that long to BOOK our date at the only nearby temple with a mikvah! The wait to get in was that long!!
We have a very supportive community behind us and as long as you are making the best decisions for your family, everyone will understand.

Good luck!

Posted by aweissen9024 on Oct 12, 2012 at 8:34am

We also did not bring our son home until 13 days, and we did the bris a little before he was a month. Our mohel is also a pediatrician and he advised us on timing. Had we waited much longer, the procedure would have required a whole other level of anesthesia and care. Obviously, if the baby will be struggling with prematurity and methadone withdrawal, you want to prioritize those health needs. Check with your rabbi to see if a medically-trained mohel can help you make the decision about when to circumcise.
We visited the mikvah with our daughter at six months and (based on her successful swimming) our son at four months. Just take the time to teach your child how to hold his breath before submersion and it will go fine at most any age. If you don’t know how to teach a baby to hold the breath, PM me and I can teach you.

Best wishes!

Posted by Thalas'shaya on Oct 12, 2012 at 2:57pm

I’m not Jewish but I was a labor and delivery nurse. We had a Jewish pediatrican who did any “complicated” circumicsions in the hospital for Jewish families. Is there any chance there is a Jewish pediatrician at the hospital? If there is I am sure you would not be the first family to need his services.

Posted by carolrn on Oct 13, 2012 at 12:22am

I am not Jewish, but we were not able to get either of our sons circumcised in the hospital.  They were each only in the hospital 2 days, and it is the birthmother that has to consent (until after TPR is signed).  Also, a lot of doctors do this as outpatient procedure.  If your son has withdrawal issues, the doctors will be reluctant to do circumcision in hospital.  You may want to discuss this with your pediatrician so you understand the medical issues.

Posted by jszmom on Oct 14, 2012 at 3:08am

We are not Jewish,  but our son was unable to be circumcised in the hospital because of his meth withdrawal. He was 2 months old when he was medically able to have it done.

Congrats on your upcoming bundle of joy

Posted by on Oct 16, 2012 at 12:08am

We called our daughter’s conversion a confirmation.  Her bi mom decided in her third trimester that we would parent our daughter…so I felt that when H was born with her two Jewish parents in the delivery room that was her instant entrance to our Jewish family and community . 
Because of Jewish law and the prospect of her choosing to marry a Jew In the future we did the mikvah and then the naming ceremony. 
Though really…she in my heart has been Jewish since her bio mom decided we were to be the parents for H.

Posted by MaineMom on Feb 11, 2013 at 8:46am

FYI circumcision doesn’t have to be on the eighth day, Jewish law just says it’s not to be done before then.  We had our bris on the eleventh day because that’s when we were back and he was legally adopted. Though we had him at birth. 

I would recommend holding out for a mohel, for anyone, because all the horror story circumcisions come out of hospital circumcisions, which incidentally are almost always done by residents, and late at night, when the hospital is quiet.  Mohelim are better trained and better rested.

Posted by Realsupergirl on Feb 26, 2014 at 12:11am

People don’t have to be circumcised on the eighth day, especially in the case of potential converts to Judaism.  Adult men converting to Judaism, who were not circumcised as infants, routinely undergo the procedure in a hospital or surgery center, either by a urologist or by a physician-mohel.  Both the Reform and the Conservative movements have instituted training for any Jewish physicians with operating room privileges—including females—to become mohelim or mohelot.

If the potential convert is circumcised by a physician-mohel, the ritual aspect of the ceremony will be conducted in the operating room.  Obviously, an adult male won’t want anyone not involved with the surgery to be present; an operation on the penis is not exactly something for prime time. 

However, in the case of an infant or toddler who is past the newborn period, some hospitals will allow the physician mohel to have the parents present in the operating room, but probably no other relatives.  The physician-mohel conducts a naming ritual, in which the baby’s Hebrew name is announced, as part of the brit milah ceremony.  The entire family can be invited to a party afterwards at the parents’ home, most likely NOT the same day, so that the baby is less fussy.  Some parents may prefer something more low key, such as sponsoring the Oneg Shabbat reception at the synagogue on the Friday night following the surgery.  The parents and baby may also be invited to the bimah, during the service, and blessed by the rabbi.

Now, things are different for an converting adult male who was circumcised non-ritually as a child.  They are also different for a child who will be circumcised by a surgeon who is not a mohel and possibly not even Jewish.

With the converting adult male, who is already circumcised, but non-ritually, what happens is that a mohel, who does not need to be a doctor, draws a drop of blood from the site of the circumcision, which symbolizes a true brit milah, and then recites the normal blessings. This approach is called “hatafat dam brit”, which means “a drop of blood of the covenant”.  Again, this symbolic circumcision is done in private, so as not to cause anyone embarrassment.  As this first step to becoming Jewish is a cause for celebration, however, there may be a party afterwards.

In the case of a child, it is perfectly allowable to have a non-mohel surgeon do the procedure in a hospital or surgery center.  Doctors who do a lot of circumcisions are likely to have an extremely low rate of complications.  In this case, the circumcision is not done with any ritual.  When the baby feels a bit better, a mohel can be invited to the parents’ home to do a hatafat dam brit ceremony, taking a tiny drop of blood from the circumcision site and going through the normal ritual prayers.  If the child is an infant or young toddler, grandparents and other close relatives can watch, and can stay for a party.

Either way, the potential convert, whether an adult or a child, will be considered to have had a valid brit milah.  And once the circumcision site heals fully, he is ready to go to the mikvah for immersion, which officially makes him Jewish.  The adult male will go into the mikvah alone and naked, and recite the conversion blessings in the hearing of rabbis behind the door.  The naked baby will be taken into the mikvah by a parent wearing a bathing suit, and the parent will recite the blessings after immersing him/her.

As some people have noted, many physicians believe that circumcision is not needed for any medical purpose; however, most recognize that it is part of certain religious traditions, and acceptable if it is done for that purpose.

Also, some insurance plans are not going to pay for circumcisions when there is no medical necessity.  Parents should be prepared to pay out-of-pocket for circumcision by a physician-mohel in a hospital or surgery center, if their insurance won’t cover it; the surgery center is usually cheaper.  Unless the child has some underlying health risks, such as cardiac or respiratory problems, he or she will almost always be able to return home the same day; that will also help to keep costs down.


Posted by sak9645 on Sep 26, 2015 at 3:10pm

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