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Circumcisions--They’re 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 explains.

“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 calling.”

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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