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A Mohel Among Friends


There are couples. There are close couples. And then there are couples who share the same mohel. For male-male convert couples, the definition of togetherness surely is being able to trade stories about the time the same stranger lanced Mr. Winky and held it in a latex-gloved hand awaiting the drop of blood that would ritually signify your entrance into the convenant of Abraham.

There are no Hallmark cards for that. Actually, there are–but none of them apply if the owner of Mr. Winky is more than eight days old.

Ryan has waited for five years to complete his conversion to Judaism. At our former shul, Congregation Kids’R’Us–or as Ryan thinks of it, Mishkan Monetizable–he felt the rabbi didn’t really care to connect with Jews who weren’t young, straight couples with a few children ready for the dues-soaking slog of Sunday school.

Almost a year now into our membership at the Temple of Audacious Welcome four miles down the road, we haven’t had to deal with identity-sapping silliness like that in a long time. The “you’re putting us on, right?” instant embrace from clergy and congregants never stopped, and besides becoming deeply enamored with–and connected into–our new community, Ryan finally let his guard down.

His sponsoring rabbi made it clear that sitting through four months of Reform’s denominational Intro class would serve only to dot all the “I”s and cross all the “T”s of his half-decade long journey, but that after living and identifying Jewishly all this time, there wasn’t any question about Ryan being ready. And unlike our old shul, for the past year people haven’t pestered Ryan with weekly rudeness rounds of “Why aren’t you Jewish yet?”–increasing his comfort factor in amazing ways.

In three and a half weeks, Ryan goes before his beit din (think: religious entrance interview), immerses in mikvah, and becomes an official member of the tribe. But there’s still that pesky “blood of the covenant” thing to get through first. It’s required by halacha (Jewish law), but as with all halacha, it’s optional or at the rabbi’s discretion in our denominational community.

And when you’re already circumcised, the bar is pretty low anyway. You undergo hatafat dam brit–a painless lancet, a tiny drop of blood, and the awkward few moments while Mr. Winky sits in the hand of someone who hasn’t even bought you dinner first.

I had no problem with it. There wasn’t time to worry, anyway, as the ritual was sandwiched between my beit din and mikvah on the same day. But our common mohel will be out of town in three and a half weeks. So tomorrow morning, he’s coming to our house to perform the procedure. Right after he performs the same ritual on a friend from Ryan’s conversion class. And immediately before all three of us attend the Jew-by-choice coffee meetup group I co-host every month.

Gee, I wonder what we’ll talk about? We have a pre-planned topic, but, you know, follow my eyes. I’m sure over coffee we three will be sharing our hatafat dam brit stories with the group. Our nervousness. Our experience.

And, of course, our tips.


Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

My Bio | My Conversion | My Family Reunion


3 replies

  1. Michael,
    You made me smile, and snort, and laugh, and have “hug thinks” (if that makes sense) to you both….what a lovely read that was. Bless you both, you lovely souls.
    Love and purrs, as dawn breaks over the east coast of Scotland

    1. Thank you, Alex. That’s very sweet of you. Someday when the airport security lines are no longer three hours long in the United States, Ryan and I are definitely going to have to take a visit to your side of the pond. Well, your side of the pond and then bear a little bit north 😉

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