FEBRUARY 2014: This month, Intact America is pleased to honor Ron Goldman, PhD—author of Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma and Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective. Ron is a researcher, educator, writer, and Executive Director of the Circumcision Resource Center in Boston.
Ron’s introduction to intactivism came in the early 1980s, when he reluctantly attended a ritual circumcision, or bris. “The baby screamed for over 20 minutes. Everyone in the room was uncomfortable. Several of us retreated into the kitchen, but we could still hear him screaming. It was horrible. I felt like I was an accomplice to a crime.” He vowed never to attend another bris, and he’s been fighting to protect babies ever since.
While researching the issue, Ron became particularly interested in the psychological effects of circumcision. “The debate at the time was, and in many cases still is, about the medical issues,” he says, “but I think an important underlying factor is the psychological trauma. Trauma is not conscious, particularly if it occurs in infancy. Part of what happens with trauma is that it is repressed to protect us from the overwhelming feelings connected with it. However, there is clinical evidence of men connecting present psychological issues with infant circumcision. Circumcision is a psychological issue disguised as a medical issue.”
Ron’s research on the unacknowledged adverse psychological and social aspects of circumcision includes hundreds of conversations with men, parents, and medical and mental health professionals.
“Talking with men who’ve been affected by this—real people with real emotional pain—is very important,” he says. “Emotions help people connect with each other. The duelling medical studies could go on forever; the key to moving forward is helping people connect.”
The Circumcision Resource Center, a non-profit educational organization founded by Ron in 1991, has been a valuable source of information about male circumcision. Its mission is to raise awareness and facilitate healing. Ron’s writing has appeared in medical journals, newspapers, parenting publications, and Jewish periodicals. He is also Executive Director of the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center.
Last summer, Ron held an Ask Me Anything online Q&A session on Reddit, which yielded more than 1,300 comments. Most recently, Ron was invited to France to participate in an “interdisciplinary dialogue” about circumcision with the Council of Europe, an organization of 47 countries. (Last October, the Council of Europe passed a non-binding resolution that called circumcision a violation of the physical integrity of children, according to established human rights standards.) Prior to the meeting, Ron said, “I look forward to contributing to the effort to raise awareness about circumcision in Europe in light of its physical, sexual, and psychological harm.”
Speaking about the growth of intactivism, Ron says, “Intact America has significantly increased awareness about and the visibility of circumcision, and for that I am very grateful. Our natural instincts are to protect infants from pain and harm, and Intact America’s work in growing awareness about this is very important.”
“Ron Goldman’s contribution to the movement to end infant circumcision is invaluable and unique, said Georganne Chapin, Executive Director of Intact America. “His focus on the Jewish perspective, and his research into the long-term psychological consequences of this brutal trauma inflicted on helpless infants have drawn in academics and intellectuals – people who might otherwise have declined to embrace this cause. We are so pleased that his work is receiving the attention it deserves. The world listens, and more and more babies are spared.”