There has been debate in the Jewish community since the time of the Egyptian enslavement as to whether or not a woman can perform a brit milah (ritual circumcision). Most opinions believe that they can. In recent years, women have embraced the ability to perform the brit milah ceremony and become mohelot (female circumcisers). One such woman is Stacy Rubtchinsky, a Massachusetts mohelet who I had the honor of interviewing
Did you aspire to be a doctor when you were a child, or did you fall into it?
I have wanted to be a doctor since I was a young child. Then, I went to college and did not like chemistry and did not like the competition in the pre-med classes, so I stopped being pre-med and instead studied linguistics and cognitive sciences. I learned a lot of different languages and loved my studies. When I graduated, I taught elementary school for two years and during that time, I remembered my passion for medicine and so, I went back to school to finish those dreaded pre-med courses and went to medical school.
Why did you become a mohelet?
Being a mohelet is a perfect fit for me. I love being a doctor and have the skills to perform safe, quick circumcisions. I also love being Jewish and practicing the rituals and traditions associated with our religion. On top of that, I love being an educator. When I go into families homes, I am a Jewish ambassador who has the opportunity to teach them about the beauty of this ritual into their lives
Does your family - parents, husband, children - support you?
My parents and husband and four children all love that I am a mohelet!
Do you find that being female adds or detracts from your role as mohelet?
I find that the families who call me are not looking for the stereotypical Orthodox mohel. They are looking for a modern, traditional, spiritual, painless ceremony and circumcision and that is what I can bring them. I think that being a female adds to the spirituality and warmth of the ceremony. I think that being a mother also adds to my credibility (I hear “If you could circumcise your own twin boys, then I trust you to circumcise my son” all the time).
Do you have an opinion on how girls should be welcomed in the Jewish community in a celebration parallel to a brit milah?
Absolutely! I have two daughters and had beautiful ceremonies for each of them. I chose to have their ceremonies at Havdalah (the ceremonial separation between Sabbath and weekday), since it is a time of transition and rebirth of the week, just as a new soul in our world is a time of rebirth. The ceremonies are a time for a community to come together and welcome a child and express it’s hopes and dreams for the baby's future. It is a wonderful time of celebration!
What advice would you give to other women who want to follow your lead and pursue a position as mohelet?
My advice to anyone who wants to be a mohelet is to go to a lot of britot and learn what you would want if the ceremony were your own. Then study with your rabbi/cantor/educator and learn the halakha (Jewish law) behind brit milah. Most importantly, though, during the process of training and thereafter remember why you pursued this wondrous journey. If you do that, you will always hold on to the passion that brought you to your dream!