Not Just for Babies
FREE Celebrates its 13,000th Bris
by Ray Kestenbaum
When we think of a bris ceremony, most of us envision a
pink-hued baby boy laying on a satin pillow and a synagogue
packed with eager relatives. But did you ever imagine that
this very ceremony that has been practiced for millennia
on eight-day old infants would also be performed on grown
Jewish men? Well, miraculously it is! Recently, Friends of
Refugees of Eastern Europe proudly celebrated its 13,000
bris and many of them on adults.
One of the adults who volunteered to be circumcised was
46-year-old Avigdor Rapoport, a telecommunications engineer
who came to the U.S. from Moscow and now lives in Maryland. "For
a long time I felt I was not complete as a person, as a Jew," says
Rapoport. "But getting circumcised in Russia was impossible.
To study Hebrew or practice Judaism was absolutely forbidden."
"When I arrived here I wanted to get circumcised as
soon as possible," he recalls. But in and around his
town of Arlington, Virginia, and later Rockville, Maryland,
Rapoport relates, the hospitals and clinics looked askance
at an adult who asked to be circumcised. He wanted the procedure
to be done in a warm, Jewish,
preferably religious, atmosphere, with caring people in charge
and perhaps Russian-speaking as well. Rapoport's wife supported
his efforts throughout.
Then last year while searching the web he came across FREE's
circumcision website. Avigdor was invited to Brooklyn, where
FREE's Chairman, Rabbi Mayer Okunov, greeted him personally
and hosted his stay for three days.
In Crown Heights, Avigdor experienced the warmth of Shabbat
in the Lubavitch community. Next day he was driven to a private
clinic and the procedure was done by the well-known mohel
Rabbi A. Romi Cohn, Chairman of FREE's Mohalim Committee.
"It was one of the greatest moments in my life," recalls
Rapoport, "especially when the sandek said the brocho
that brought me into the Covenant of Abraham, our patriarch."
Since his bris, Mr. Rapoport has performed more mitzvot
like keeping kosher and observing Shabbat. He studies Hebrew
and goes to synagogue whenever possible. "After the
circumcision, we don't just kiss them goodbye. We follow
up by urging them to send their children to a Jewish school
or a yeshiva, to keep kosher and we encourage them to take
an active part in their Jewish communities" Rabbi Okunov
“Our ancestor Abraham was circumcised at age 99,” says
Rabbi Okunov. “This teaches us that no Jew should be
left out, regardless of age. Each Jew who takes advantage
of FREE’s circumcision program forms another link in
a 4,000-year-old chain of commitment to Judaism’s high
All FREE brissim are conducted according to the halacha,
Jewish law. The procedures are deemed by physicians and hospital
administrators to be the ultimate in safety and health care.
In Brooklyn, the circumcisions are conducted at a private
clinic, where the mohalim perform a state-of-the-art, professional,
painless procedure with local anesthesia and little or no
after-effect. Bris applicants from out-of-town are picked
up and transported first to Crown Heights and later to the
medical clinic. The entire procedure is free of charge.
For more information, to schedule a bris, or to have the
merit of being a sandek, please contact the FREE Circumcision
Program at 718-467-0860, Ext. 106, or E-mail Circumcision@RussianJewry.org.
FREE's websites can be accessed by going to:www.freecircumcision.org for English and www.freecircumcision.com for Russian.
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