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College Of Physicians Scraps Its Proposal That Would Have Prevented Physician Mohels from Performing Circumcisions in the Home or Synagogue

by Rhonda Spivak, July 21

On Friday, July 16, the College of Physicians and Surgeons posted a notice on its website indicating it was completely scrapping its proposal which would have resulted in physicians who are also mohels being required to perform a male circumcision in a medical office setting, as opposed to a home or a synagogue. This would have impaired the right of Jews in the province to have a brit milah ceremony.

The notice that the College posted said, in part: “We recognize that as currently written, the standard would implicate a practicing CPSM (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba) member performing a male circumcision outside of an appropriate medical facility. That was not the intention in drafting the standard…

“The standard will be amended. The standard will not infringe on any human or religious rights and freedoms whatsoever. The role of CPSM is to protect the safety of the public, and we will continue to strive to achieve this through appropriate regulation of the medical profession. “At a minimum, the working group will add an exemption in the standard for male circumcision performed in a religious ceremony or tradition, particularly respecting low-risk neonatal circumcisions…

“CPSM established a working group in 2020, tasked with developing a new standard of practice for performing specific procedures in office-based practice settings, including male circumcisions. “The working group did not consult with the Jewish community in its early development of the draft Standard; however, that is precisely the purpose of the current public consultation, and we are grateful for the feedback received.”

Physician mohel Matthew Lazar is pleased with the result. In his submission to the College, Lazar wrote, "...There has never yet been a documented problem, complaint, or infection in circumcisions performed outside of a medical clinic as compared to those performed in a medical clinic in Manitoba; nor is there any real world evidence of increased risk of infection in circumcisions performed outside of a medical clinic as compared to those performed in a medical clinic. Extensive studies have shown that midwives can safely manage a live birth in the home environment; this is of course much more complicated and higher risk than a fully trained doctor performing a simple newborn male circumcision in the home environment. Ironically by prohibiting trained physicians from carrying out this procedure safely, the college may be driving Manitobans to seek out less safe and more risky alternatives; and as shown by recent Covid-19 related experience, it is demonstrably safer and lower infectious risk to the newborn to have the procedure done in the home environment rather than being exposed to more infectious agents by coming to a clinic."

Lazar continued, "If the College were to insist on restricting male circumcisions carried out in the course of a religious ceremony or tradition from taking place in a residence, hospitality facility, community center, temple, synagogue, or other house of worship, this would constitute a significant and unjustified impingement on Manitobans’ right to religious freedom, and would potentially spark a Human Rights challenge. The inevitable legal action would be fruitless, wasteful, expensive, and damaging to the reputation of doctors in general and the College in particular."

The College backed down from its proposal after it received extensive complaints from the Jewish community.

Bnai Brith Canada penned a letter on July 12 outlining extensive objections to the College's proposal, which the Winnipeg Jewish Review published and can be read here: MB College of Physicians Proposes Sweeping Restrictions on Availability of Circumcision-B'nai Brith Expresses Profound Concerns (

Jewish Federation CEO Elaine Goldstine sent a letter by email to members of the community on July 13. In her letter, Goldstine informed recipients that the College of Physicians and Surgeons draft proposal , if accepted, would make the performance of a brit milah by a physician outside of a medical clinic a violation of the College’s Standard of Practice. "Even though the Draft Standard by the College has been in the public domain for approximately one month, the Jewish Federation was only made aware of its contents yesterday” . Further, according to Goldstine's letter, “ The Jewish Federation immediately reached out to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba to discuss the matter. Based on those discussions, this was unintentional.” However Goldstine said "We are therefore reaching out to all of you to make our voices heard and let the College know that the performance of all ritual Jewish male circumcisions (brit milot) by a physician should be excluded from the Standard."

On July 15, the Winnipeg Jewish Review published extensive commentary by Professor of Law Bryan Schwartz outlining objections to the College's proposal, which can be read here: Prof. Bryan Schwartz: Both religious freedom and medical safety support the continued activity of physician mohels (

The Winnipeg Council of Rabbis also sent a letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, outlining its significant opposition to the College’s new proposal governing circumcisions.

The Canadian Jewish Community Forum, Manitoba Region, also voiced its concerns with the College noting that in Winnipeg all the mohels are physicians.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.