Why Aren't Jewish Women Circumcised? by Shayne J.D. Cohen

1314 Words6 Pages
Shayne J. D. Cohen presents an extensive study of the question “why aren’t Jewish women circumcised?” Throughout the book he examines this question in a number of different and unique ways. He writes this book in hopes to inform and educate the curious mind such as scholars and lay people. Furthermore, he states that “In this book I am interested not only in the history of Jewish circumcision but also, and perhaps even more so, in the history of Jewishness.” (Cohen, pg.xii) In other words, Cohen not only presents the reader with the history of the question, but also the history of the Jews and Christians. Overall, Shayne J. D. Cohen brings up the issue of gender within Judaism when he asks the question, also known as the title of the book, “Why aren’t Jewish women circumcised?” The book is split up into two separate parts. The first part consisting of the first four chapters and the second part of the book, Cohen digs deeper into his investigation and discusses four different Jewish responses towards the frequently asked question in respects to circumcision. Let’s start with the first part of this book. It contains four connected chapters that present the history of male circumcision; it also takes a look at whether or not Jewish women were ever circumcised. Cohen goes on to present the Christian arguments against circumcision based on the elimination of women. Moreover, he investigates why the rabbinic sages decided to ignore the problem of women’s prohibition from this ritual. In addition, Cohen also explains that the medieval rabbinic scholars engaged in the matter rather than ignoring it. In chapter one, Cohen discusses the procedures of intentional and involuntary circumcision, as well as surgical procedures. He explains t... ... middle of paper ... ...about the circumcision of Jewish men and women is anything by colossal. There is no Jewish text that indicates that a Jewish man who refuses to be circumcised ceases to be Jewish. “Such a jew, of course, is a sinner, perhaps an apostate, but no authortitative legal text had excluded such a Jew from Judaism…” (Cohen, pg.210) Furthermore, the debate regarding circumcision is far from over. Cohen’s book, “Why aren’t Jewish women circumcised”, published in the year of 2005, has worked out to be a quite popular read within the student body. The book which is based mostly on research, present’s the history of circumcision, as well as the Jewish-Christian debate surrounding the issue. Furthermore, Cohen’s book does not seem to profess to one argument in particular; however, it offers a comprehensive study of the literature that examines circumcision from a specific view.

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