Rabbi Mark Cooper, Mohel

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is a Bris?

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    A Bris, sometimes called Brit Milah (Hebrew for the Covenant of Circumcision), is one of the most fundamental religious practices in Judaism. Its origins are in the Torah- "And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations." (Genesis 17:12). The first person to enter into a covenant with God was Abraham the Patriarch. As part of the covenant, God promised Abraham to make him the father of a great nation that would become known as Israel, and to show him a way of life that would make his days more meaningful and inspire him to make the world a better place. Abraham pledged to live loyally according to this new way of life and to pass this precious heritage down to the next generation. This pledge has been reaffirmed in an unbroken chain of tradition for more than 4,000 years.  A Bris is a celebration of the beauty and vitality of Jewish tradition and the continuity of our religious heritage, as well as an expression of hope and confidence in the future vitality of our way of life. More than any other Jewish ritual, a Bris represents an affirmation of Jewish identity. Circumcision, the making of a permanent mark on the male organ of procreation, is performed as a symbol of our commitment to transmit our values to the next generation. A Bris is a wonderful way for a Jewish family to celebrate the birth of a child. It is a warm and memorable experience, replete with significance and meaning for all those involved, and the first of many milestones and happy occasions to be joyously celebrated during the child's life as he grows to be a source of joy to his family and to the Jewish people.
  • The Mohel and his training

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    The Mohel (often pronounced “moyel”) officiates at a Bris and performs the circumcision. He is an expert in performing infant circumcision and has extensive training in a hospital setting. A Mohel is also an expert in the Jewish law that covers a Bris. He knows when to schedule a Bris, when and under what circumstances it should be postponed, and how to conduct the ceremony according to Jewish tradition. A Mohel follows medical protocols that ensure that the children in their care are safe and well cared for.
  • When is a Bris held?

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    A Bris should be held during the day on the eighth day of life, counting the day of birth as the first day, according to the Jewish calendar (a new Jewish day begins at nightfall, not at midnight). A Bris should be held even on Shabbat or Jewish festival, assuming that the baby was not born by c-section and a qualified Mohel is available within walking distance. Otherwise it should be postponed to the next non-Shabbat or non-Festival day. The baby's medical eligibility for circumcision should be determined by his pediatrician.
  • Where can a Bris be held?

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    A Bris can be held in virtually any indoor location you choose, including a private home, a synagogue, a restaurant, a country club, or a communal facility like a Jewish Community Center.
  • How many people need to be at a Bris?

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    There is no minimum requirement for attendance at a Bris. A Bris can be attended by only the parent/s, baby and the Mohel, or as many as hundreds of people. A Bris isn’t a worship service like the kind that take place in a synagogue, so no minyan is required.
  • When should we call?

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    Call me at the earliest convenient hour after giving birth at 973.464.3999 (talk and text) or 800.499.BRIS. We’ll confirm the appropriate day for the Bris and agree on a mutually convenient time for the ceremony.
  • What if one of the parents is not Jewish?

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    If the mother is Jewish then, according to all Jewish authorities, the baby is Jewish and should have a Bris on the eighth day of life. If the mother is not Jewish, then opinions differ. Some Reform rabbis regard the baby as Jewish while Conservative and Orthodox rabbis will require that the baby be converted to Judaism. If the mother isn’t Jewish, a Bris should be held if both parents have made a decision to raise their son exclusively as a Jew and not celebrate any birth ceremonies or rituals practiced by other religions.
  • What if there is a multiple birth?

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    If you are giving birth to twin or triplet boys, you can have one ceremony for all your sons at once assuming they weigh enough and are healthy. Often the birth of twins or triplets is premature, thus the Bris is delayed until the babies are big enough to be circumcised. A Bris for twins or triplets is much the same as for a single baby, with the exception of multiple circumcisions. All the honors are double or tripled.

    If you are giving birth to a twins or triplets including a girl, you can have a single ceremony to celebrate the birth of all your children at the same time. Jewish tradition celebrates the birth of females and affirms their Jewish identity with a ceremony with equal passion. The rituals of a Bris (excluding, of course, circumcision) can be adapted to include baby boys and girls in one beautiful and meaningful ceremony.
  • Anesthesia

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    Some parents wish to have some type of anesthetic treatment for their son’s Bris. I do not encourage the use of a topical anesthetic cream as I do not think such creams are either effective or necessary. Still, you should discuss the use of an anesthetic cream (the most common one is Emla, a prescription item) with your baby’s pediatrician. If you and the doctor decide that it should be used, I will happily guide you in using it on the day of the Bris.
  • Bathing after circumcision

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    A baby who has been circumcised should not be immersed in water for three days following the procedure. The reason is similar to the reason that a baby is not bathed in water until the umbilical cord stump has fallen off (a precaution that bacteria not enter the body through an opening in the skin).
  • Siblings

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    Depending on their age, you may want to include your baby's older siblings in the Bris ceremony. Keep in mind that the birth of a new baby is often a difficult time for a toddler. Little children may need a lot of extra attention when a new baby enters the family. When asked what the celebration for a new baby brother is all about, parents might respond "We are having a celebration to welcome Joshua into our family and show how proud we are that he is Jewish." When asked what the Mohel is going to do to their little brother, parents might respond "The Mohel will not hurt Joshua. He is going to remove a little piece of skin from his body, which is something that happens to every little Jewish boy. Your little brother may cry because he is hungry. Mommy will feed him right away.

    Little children can be included in the Bris ceremony in a number of ways. You might have your older child/ren help bring the baby into the room by walking alongside the adults who receive this honor. You could also write a simple prayer or statement which your child could read or say, such as "I am happy to have a new baby brother. I will help him learn and grow and I will play with him." If your child is getting a Jewish education, you could ask him/her to recite the prayer over the bread (the Motsi) to begin the meal of celebration at the conclusion of the ceremony.
  • Adoption and Conversion

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    Parents who adopt a child should try to learn the birth mother's religion. If the birth mother is Jewish then the child is a born Jew. If there is any doubt as to the birth mother's religion, then it should be assumed that the child is not born Jewish. Jewish parents adopting a baby will likely want to convert him or her to Judaism. The actual conversion process is easiest when the child is an infant or toddler. A Jewish infant boy who is adopted should have his Bris on the eighth day. An infant boy not born to a Jewish mother may have a Bris on any day except the Sabbath or a Jewish holiday.
  • Aftercare

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    Caring for your baby following circumcision is easy.

    • During the days following the circumcision you may see several things on the penis, all of which are considered normal. All of these conditions will resolve themselves within a week or less.
    • The head of the penis will likely be red or purple in color due to the fact that it has not come into contact with light or air until the time of circumcision.
    • During the first day a slight discharge of bloody fluid (about the size of a dime or smaller) may be visible on the gauze pad covering the penis, or perhaps in the diaper.
    • There may be some swelling of the softer tissue below the head of the penis.
    • There may be secretion of mucous that accumulates on the head or shaft of the penis which will look like scabs or bumps that are off-white or gray in color. The secretion might look like pus, but it is not. Do not attempt to remove it from the penis, since doing so might cause discomfort. Just leave it alone and it will go away.
    • Begin the post-circumcision procedure with the first diaper you change after the ceremony and continue it for three full days (72 hours).
    • Place a generous amount of Vaseline (about the size of a large olive) on a fresh 3x3 gauze pad. Spread the Vaseline from edge to edge evenly on the gauze pad. With the penis pointing downward (resting on the scrotum) place the Vaseline coated gauze pad over the penis to form a barrier between the penis and the diaper. Do not wrap or bandage the penis with the gauze pad.
    • Do not clean the penis with a diaper wipe.
    • You may begin bathing your baby after discontinuing the gauze pad applications, provided that the umbilical cord stump has fallen off.
    • If you see something that you would like to have explained, please do not hesitate to call me at 800.499.BRIS or text me at 973.464.3999. I am available 24/7 to answer your questions.
  • Cost and Insurance

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    The cost for officiating at a Bris is $850 in New Jersey and $900 in New York. If the ceremony takes place in Manhattan, the family is asked to cover the cost of garage parking if no street parking is available. Regarding insurance claims, while I can’t submit a claim directly to your carrier I will gladly provide an insurance receipt that you can submit on your own. Check with your carrier to determine whether or not the services of a Mohel are covered by your policy.