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The Secret Circumcision in Turkey

Fighting fears of his Judaism being discovered by neighbors, a father in Antakya, Turkey allowed a secret circumcision of his baby boy on Chanukah
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 12/14/2010, 4:25 PM / Last Update: 12/14/2010, 4:31 PM

Antakya, Turkey was home to about 50 Jews – until last week when a father overcame his fears of anti-Semitism and allowed a secret circumcision on Chanukah of his 30-day-old baby boy, the city's newest Jew.

Antakya is a Mediterranean coastal city located near Syria. The father, whose identity cannot be revealed, is a “secret” Jew but was afraid his neighbors would discover his religion if he allowed his new-born baby boy to be circumcised, in one of the most ancient and sacred Jewish commandments that is a symbol of the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people..

Jewish law states that the circumcision – “brit mila” in Hebrew – should take place on the eighth day of a boy's life unless there are medical reasons for delaying the procedure. Circumcisions are performed on older males who convert and on those whose Jewish parents did not observe the Jewish law. The baby in Antalya was 30-days old when he was circumcised.

The story of the secret Turkish Jew and his newborn son was not even known to the local Chabad rabbi but was related to Rabbi Aharon Kramer, head of the “Covenant of the Fathers’ group that works to make sure Jewish males are circumcised, even if they are adults.

One of the father’s relatives is Rabbi Shmuel Siman Tov, who turned to Rabbi Kramer. He told Arutz 7 that the father did not want him to fly to Turkey and perform the circumcision before the end of Chanukah, apparently afraid that the rabbi would light the Chanukah menorah, a sign that Jews live in the house.

Rabbi Kramer said he explained to the family that the circumcision must be done during the daytime, despite the father’s fears that neighbors might peek through the windows and discover he is Jewish.  

The father agreed to Rabbi Kramer's flying to Antalya, where he also met the local Chabad rabbi, who now was privy to the secret. The father took us to his house, Rabbi Kramer related. “I asked him if there were any other Jews in the area, and he used the Internet to find one more Jew, who arrived at the house."

The father closed the curtains, and Rabbi Kramer performed the circumcision at his house, without a "minyan," the necessary quorum of 10 Jews over the age of Bar Mitzvah. The name of the new Jew was not revealed for publication.

“There was a rare feeling of sanctifying the Creator,” Rabbi Kramer said. “In the middle of the circumcision, a neighbor knocked on the door. The father took off his kippa and went to the door, went outside to talk to him and them came back and put his kippa back on his head.”

The father not only arranged for the circumcision of his son but also lit the candles for the seventh night of Chanukah for the first time in his life. The occasion was so special that he recited a special blessing that is recited only on the first night.

Despite the father’s fears, apparently an outgrowth of his resistance to letting anyone know he is Jewish, Rabbi Kramer said that he himself freely strolled the streets of Antalya with his long beard and forelocks without detecting any anti-Semitism.