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SA Organisations

World authority on brit milah shares expertise

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The Regulatory Board of Brit Mila in South Africa, which was inaugurated in March this year, has made huge strides in creating a governance structure. As part of the process, the new regulatory body last week brought out one of the world’s foremost authorities on circumcision and the management and registration of mohelim, Dr Joseph Spitzer, from London (pictured left). All the mohelim from around South Africa came together for an extensive all-day workshop.
by ANT KATZ | Jun 08, 2016

Registration of SA's Orthodox mohelim to begin shortly


Dr Spitzer is a GP in private practice and medical officer of The Initiation Society (a society of mohelim in the UK that was set up in 1745 for the furtherance of the practice of brit milah). It is the oldest Jewish organisation in the UK and, until Princes William and Harry, had circumcised every Royal male from the time of their inception.

Dr Spitzer has been a mohel for over 35 years and is also the honorary senior clinical lecturer at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary College, University of London.

Spitzer DrChief Rabbi Warren Goldstein told Jewish Report that the Brit Milah Regulatory Board is in the process of “creating a governance framework for the practice of brit milah” and that Dr Spitzer was brought out to assist.


RIGHT: Dr Spitzer in Johannesburg last week - PIC: Ant Katz

“His visit to South Africa was very successful and the way forward in this ongoing process is well set out,” said Rabbi Goldstein.

“We are determined to implement a new governance structure with speed, excellence, accountability and transparency,” said Rabbi Goldstein. “This new structure will greatly strengthen and enhance the practice of brit milah in our community.”

Dr Spitzer’s presence at the meeting certainly added to the gravitas of the occasion. “I was able to share my experience and expertise,” said Spitzer. “As the officer in charge of training, supervision, ongoing education and arranging of meetings for the Initiation Society,” he says, his purpose is also to “regulate the practice of brit milah, maintain a register of mohelim, provide ongoing education and ensure the public that registered members will provide them with the highest of religious and medial standards.”

Spitzer felt it was “an extremely useful session” and that the mohelim had enjoyed the opportunity to discuss issues that they have in common, in a “constructive and positive manner”.

The discussions that were led by him, he says, “were often lively and heated - but of a constructive and valuable nature”.

He says that “besides the obvious surgical skills required and the halachic knowledge demanded, the aspect of social communication skills was just as important.” He believes these “bedside manner” skills are vital for all mohelim whether medical or rabbinic.   

Dr Spitzer is the author of a host of medical papers and three books: Caring for Jewish Patients; Handbook for Mohelim; and A guide to the Orthodox Jewish Way of Life for Health Care Professionals (written specifically as an insight to non-Jewish doctors).

This was Dr Spitzer’s second visit to South Africa.

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