As soon as we found out we were having a boy, I knew our interfaith childrearing was going to start fast and early. The bris (or brit milah), customarily performed on the 8th day of life, was going to force our hands with its timetable. We knew we wanted to make sure it happened, but neither of us knew exactly what would be required. Early on, we talked to one of the rabbis at the synagogue we had become most comfortable with and were attending regularly. She seemed pleased that we wanted to have one, and didn’t break stride when we pointed out that I am not Jewish, assuring us the text could be adapted for non-Jewish parents and grandparents. We were encouraged, and BWB set out to find a mohel.

On the recommendation of the rabbi, my husband contacted a very nice gentleman and explained to him our situation. The mohel said he was fine with our intention to have both a bris and a baptism, but it did mean he wanted a rabbi present and fully informed. No problem, we thought, as we had already covered that with the rabbi. This, however, is where things got strained. Suffice it to say, the rabbi did not ever actually come out and say she actively would not attend, but she did make it clear she was… unable to do so for unclear reasons. We found ourselves in the hospital with a baby, a mohel, and no rabbi.

Our priest (the one from the church I stumbled into in March) came to visit us in the hospital. I mentioned that we were having trouble and that I was worried because BWB was taking it pretty hard. He had started talking glumly about just having it done by a doctor before we were discharged, and none of us were happy about that option. Our priest told us she would work on it and get back to us. A few days later, she gave us a name and told us she’d see us at the ceremony.

God does indeed move in mysterious ways. The rabbi that we were put in contact with is amazing. He said his congregation is about fifty percent intermarried and that he wasn’t concerned about the baptism at all. “We did it first, after all! It’s just another ancient welcoming ceremony.” He called me because he wanted to make sure I was okay with everything and to answer any questions, and I felt so listened to, so supported, and most importantly so included.

The day of the ceremony, I was a little bit of a wreck. It was in our living room, which meant I needed to get the house clean enough for guests. (It was passable, and nobody said anything.) I didn’t get the challah out of the freezer early enough to have it baked in time, but there were kosher hors d’oeuvres (even though nobody really ate them). Mostly, I was trying to keep myself busy and not think about the fact that some stranger was going to come into the house and wield a scalpel at my son’s most tender parts.

In attendance that day were the rabbi and mohel (obviously), my priest and her partner, and one of my dearest friends. My family had come in when the baby was born but wasn’t able to stay for a full week, and his parents had been unable to travel. Not to be bested by the difficulty, we set up Skype on one of the iPads and his mom and dad were able to be the proud grandparents at their grandson’s bris thanks to the fact that we are living in the future. The ceremony itself was lovely and had no awkward moments of pseudo-“inclusive” language that felt rammed in where it shouldn’t be, which I appreciated. When the mohel stepped up to do his part, he spoke about how it was the duty of every father to see his son circumcised, and that there was some kind of loophole made to allow someone trained to do it so that the father didn’t have to do it himself. (I’m a little hazy on the details; I was nervous about the cutting about to happen.) So then he says, “But here we have a strange situation, because BWB is a doctor, and therefore is qualified to circumcise his own son. So, BWB and I have talked about it, and he will be doing the circumcision.” I did not appreciate this joke, and chuckled nervously.

It quickly became apparent that he was not, in fact, kidding, and my husband had every intention of taking a scalpel to our son. Suddenly, the prospect of a stranger cutting my son’s genitals seemed not so bad by comparison. (Sorry, honey. We don’t operate on family members for a reason!) My stress level increased, easing somewhat only after I realized that the mohel was doing all of the difficult set-up part, leaving BWB with the relatively easy task of the actual cut. I had been told I could step out of the room, but I stayed. I think the wine helped the little guy, because other than two soul-piercing, anguished screams (I may be overstating this a tiny bit), the baby was a trooper. His mom was a wreck, but they gave him back to me very quickly and that made things better for both of us. (Mostly me.)

Even though we had a tiny crowd, I felt surrounded by love and welcomed. I’m hoping the baby could feel it, too. When the rabbi and I talked about the bris prior to the ceremony, he emphasized that this ceremony is all about recognizing a baby and his family as part of the community. He made it explicit that he included me in that welcome, wholeheartedly and without reservation. I appreciate that enormously, and know that it is remarkable for us to have found someone as generous in spirit as he is. This welcome into the community is why it has been so important to us to make sure he has a bris and baptism. We are fully committed to raising our child with the help and support of both of his communities, and are so grateful and blessed to have found two communities willing to help us do so.

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