The San Francisco Bay Area’s Most Experienced     & Only Full Time Mohel

Midwife’s Story

deborahWhy Rabbi Trager? Glad you asked! I am writing about Rabbi Trager from my perspective as an observant Jewish Midwife working in the Bay Area for the last 18 years. I straddle a unique spot on the fence of debate around circumcision. While I fully support the religious ritual of circumcision for Jewish & Muslim boys, I do not believe there is any other reason for doing it. My practice has almost no secular circumcisions, with only our Jewish & Muslim parents doing it. So readers will understand that I want to be sure my families are getting a really great Mohel to care for their little ones.

Question is, what makes for a great Mohel? From my perspective there are 3 indispensable qualities. The first is technical expertise. Rabbi Trager knows how to get the job done quickly and efficiently. From the time he takes the diaper off the baby to the time he puts it back on, is about a minute! The babies barely have time to cry, it’s over so fast. That’s the skill level that I’m looking for and Rabbi Trager brings it in abundance.

Making a good, kosher ritual is the second most important piece of the bris. Rabbi Trager takes the time to learn about each family’s level of observance and customizes the ritual so that all the requirements are met, while making everyone feel comfortable with the process. It is also a blessing that this Mohel does not discriminate with regards to interfaith or LGBTQ families.

Lastly, yet no less important than the other elements, is the aftercare for the baby. Rabbi Trager keeps his instructions to the parents clear and simple and demonstrates a diaper change before he leaves, so new parents can see how easy the care actually is. Additionally, Rabbi Trager takes his care to another level by making himself available at any time for any concern the parents might have during the healing phase. In true Jewish tradition, he makes it clear that the only silly question is the one not asked!
Of all of the Mohels working in the Bay Area, Rabbi Trager is the only one I recommend to my client families.

Deborah Simone
Licensed Midwife, Awakenings Birth Services

This is a letter that a mother/midwife wrote to her colleagues about her personal experience using a mohel.

Thanks for sharing your story Diana.

Diana HurwitzHi Everyone,

First I wanted to state, that I know how most of you feel about circumcision. I happen to agree with most of your views. I too wish to have the hospital circumcision banned and made illegal or at the very least no longer covered by insurance. I think that the hospital procedure is dangerous and awful in so many unspeakable ways. I get that completely. With this in mind, please read my personal story that I am choosing to share with all of you…

I also want you to all know that I have personally had experience with a hospital circumcision with my first son (before I knew any better) and a home circumcision with my second son done by a Rabbi (after many, many days & weeks of research and conversations). My first son came back with dried tears on his face after being gone from me for over 2 hours for the procedure; which was done the next day after he was born. I had no idea it would even hurt him…no one told me the truth about this procedure!! I was mortified. I came home and watched videos of how this was done and I felt SICK. I could not believe they had done this to my baby and I ALLOWED IT. There are no words for how I felt after learning all of this. 

Then I married a Jewish man. After our home birth and I realized we had given birth to a son…one of the first things I thought was…OMG CIRCUMCISION. I honestly was terrified. My husband and his family and our friends insisted that Mohel’s walk on water. They do not do the procedure the same way as Pediatricians do and after all my research I had to believe them as I had no choice really. This was the life I chose to lead and I agreed to raise my kids in this fashion when I married my dear husband. I just secretly hoped we would have all girls! He swore to me this was not the procedure I was so afraid of inflicting onto my newborn son. I trusted him. So my beloved Midwife came back to support me during one more rite of passage. If not for her, I would not have made it through the procedure. Everyone was focused on my son. It was his day. So she was there to focus on me. I was shaking and crying and a total wreck. My home birth baby that I had at home to protect against all things sharp and evil was being subjected to all things sharp and evil in all the wrong places. I was barely there.

Diana Hurwitz B-Day was upon us (the Bris). The Rabbi came and I was terrified of him at first. He looked so foreign to me. He had the black hat to go with the black suit and the long grey beard and the curly sideburns. His stature was very broad and tall and I felt like he towered over me (at least that is how I felt…he was probably only 5’3″ and 90lbs for all I really knew). However, after a few minutes with him I realized he was one of the most gentle men I had ever met. He immediately made me feel better by explaining EVERYTHING to me and making sure I really wanted to do this. When I agreed and in my heart I really did. He checked our son’s anatomy very carefully with us to make sure the procedure would be safe for him to endure. It was. Then we went downstairs. My husband’s brother held our son on a pillow on his lap. Our baby was given a topical anesthetizing cream and then the Rabbi used a straight, tiny knife to perform the procedure by his own hand. There was no plastibell (sp?) device or guillotine contraption. No strapping him down onto a cold, hard table. Nothing but a small, tiny knife and his very skilled hands. It was over in less than a minute on the eighth day of his life in the comfort and safety of our home and in his Uncle’s arms on a soft pillow with family and friends all around. MY SON DID NOT CRY. In fact, he breastfed right after it was done like nothing had happened. However, I was a freakin’ MESS. I cried for hours leading up to and after the event. Like I said, I was a wreck!! My son, on the other hand, never even acknowledged that something had happened to him. Even hours after the procedure there was no scabbing or any bleeding ever. His skin was red but never irritated more than that. Even that was gone in a day or two. I hear all of this is a very typical experience of people that use Mohels for their circumcisions. These men dedicate their whole being to the sanctity and perfection of this procedure. They do nothing else their entire lives once they decide to become Mohels. It has been this way for centuries. They are passionate about this.

I am an educated person and I always want to know both sides of every issue before I decide what is the right course of action for me. I hear & read the stories about circumcision too. I also know about the Jewish reform movement that explains all about how this is an archaic procedure that should not be done for any reason…not even religious. I also know, personally, three grown men that did not have circumcisions done when they were babies only to have to need the procedure done later in life due to various complications of the foreskin (at 13, 17 and 19). By their own admission that “hurt like hell” and they needed weeks to recover. I also know ONE boy who suffers from a botched hospital circumcision because the pediatrician did not check the boys anatomy before carrying on thus forever altering this poor boy’s penis.

Diana Hurwitz 3I’m sure we have all heard horror stories. I have heard them too. This is where our passion comes from. We want families to know the truth. We also want families to have options. I for one, highly advocate for families (Jewish or not) to employ the services of a Mohel if they insist on doing a circumcision at all. It is never up to me which path they choose. What I do feel responsible for is not giving them all the options available to them regardless of the choices they make. If I had known what I know now I would have employed a Mohel for my first born son even though I was not Jewish then. So in this light…I am passing this information along. I never make judgments about the choices other people make for their families.

So we do have a new Mohel in town. Our last Mohel, the dear Rabbi Chanan Feld, has passed on. He was loved and cherished in our community as well as was his wife who was also a Midwife. Since he left, there have been no suitable replacements. Until now…here is his information to do with what you like. 
Here is his contact info:
Rabbi Moshe Trager

Sincerely & With Love,
Diana Hurwitz, CD (DONA) 
Certified Birth & Postpartum Doula
Lactation Counselor, 
Birthing from Within Mentor, 
Home Birth Midwife Assistant