Joint statement on brit milah in the context of COVID-19 restrictions

Ontario Liberal-minded Association of Mohalim, and Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto

Brit milah is a very important ritual which has been part of Jewish life for over 4,000 years. Brit
milah is done on the eighth day of life, and involves a ceremony in which a circumcision is done
and the baby receives his Hebrew name. Traditionally, there is a minyan present, and a festive
meal follows the ceremony. The Reform Mohalim abide by the standards of our Brit Mohalim.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, gatherings of people are recognized as dangerous, and the
usual format of a brit milah contravenes the necessary social distancing which is crucial to
preventing spread of the virus. Our goal is to preserve as much of the tradition and spirituality
of brit milah as possible, while also optimizing the preservation of life that is so inherent to
Judaism. This urgent situation demands that new temporary practices be instituted for the
duration of the crisis.

There are three options for babies born during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1) Have the baby circumcised in the hospital before discharge, if the hospital is permitting
circumcisions. Some Rabbis may offer an online blessing on the eighth day. The Hebrew naming
ceremony, as well as a small ritual known as hatafat dam brit, would then be done with family
and friends at a later time.

2) If both parents and mohel/et feel comfortable, bris can be done on the eighth day in the home,
on the condition that only the parents and the baby are present. This is only possible if both the
mohel and the parents of the baby do not have symptoms of COVID-19, have not tested
positive for COVID-19 for the past 2 weeks, and are not under self-isolation due to travel or
contact with someone who has COVID-19. Friends and family can join virtually.

3) If neither option 1 or 2 are possible, the baby can be circumcised after the COVID-19
restrictions are over. If this doesn’t occur before he is more than 6-12 weeks old, the
circumcision would be done under general anesthetic when he's around a year of age. Some
Rabbis may offer an online blessing on the eighth day having received a commitment from the
parents for a later circumcision.

We recognize that the situation is changing rapidly from day to day. There are risks related to
doing a circumcision in the hospital, or a bris in the home on the eighth day during this current
crisis; and there are different risks related to delaying the bris. The decision must be made by
the parents and the mohel based on a balance of risks in their individual situation and
environment. We pray that this pandemic may soon pass and we can all celebrate these
beautiful moments together again.