Choosing a Mohel

A mohels, trained in the ritual laws and medical technique of brit milah, acts on behalf of the parents to fulfill this important ritual of circumcision.

What qualities should one look for when choosing a mohel?

A mohel should be trained and certified to perform brit milah, and you may prefer someone who has a number of years of experience. The Conservative and Reform movements both have formal training programs which certify mohalim, while Orthodox mohalim will usually apprentice under a senior mohel until they master the procedure. Some mohalim serve as Rabbis and cantors and are affiliated with local synagogues and temples, but many are full time medical practitioners.

Aside from choosing a mohel with the training and knowledge to perform the task, you will want to find a mohel who you feel comfortable speaking and working with on a personal level. Does the mohel appear warm and caring, or formal and businesslike -- and which approach do you prefer? If the family is an interfaith couple, is the mohel comfortable working with both parents and will the ceremony be inclusive and meaningful for all involved? While Orthodox mohalim are always male, the Reform and Conservative movements have certified female mohalim, allowing the parents to have the gender they prefer.

What to discuss with the mohel

It is important to discuss your expectations and needs in advance with the mohel so s/he can tailor his/her approach to your family. For example, if you intend to have a photographer, find out if the mohel is comfortable working on camera. Mohalim will advise you in advance of their expected fees, which generally amount to several hundred dollars. The mohel may charge slightly more if s/he needs to travel in for the brit or if the brit falls out on a Sabbath or major Jewish holiday. Every Jewish child has a right to a brit milah and no mohel will turn away a parent in cases of financial need. While some parents wait until the birth to contact a mohel, it is generally a good idea to call a few weeks in advance of one's expected due date to talk with a mohel and discuss the ceremony to ensure that you find someone you will be happy working with.

Preparing for the Brit

The mohel will generally need a few pieces of information before the brit. Foremost, parents need to select the baby's Hebrew name for the naming ceremony. The mohel will likely also ask for the parents' names as well (with accommodation made for a non-Jewish parent). There are a number of special roles in the ceremony that relatives and friends can be honored to perform which the mohel will review with you. The mohel may ask that you have a few items on hand for the day of the brit, such as: a bottle of kosher wine, antibiotic ointment, yalmukas (skullcaps), a pillow upon which to rest the baby, and extra diapers. The mohel will also check the baby before the brit to make sure the child is healthy enough to undergo circumcision and perform a follow up consultation to verify that the baby is healing and recovering properly.

A brit milah is a wonderful occasion and choosing an experienced and professional mohel to work with will help make the occasion more meaningful and special for you and your family.