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October 07, 1983 - Image 53

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-10-07

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Changes in Brit Mila Detailed

Changes in the brit mila
(circumcision) ceremony
that took place during the
Middle Ages are discussed
by Dr. Joseph Gutmann,
professor of art history at
Wayne State University, int
his recent article, "Christ-
ian Influences on Jewish
In the article, Dr. Gut-
mann writes:
"Jewish involvement
with Catholic German soci-
ety roughly between the
12th and 15th Centuries, as
seen in its life cycle cere-
monies, reveals a distinct
pattern that inextricably
testifies to the complex in-
terrelationship of
Ashkenazi Jews with their
medieval German Christ-
ian neighbors. Jews shared
not only Christian fears and
anxieties, but also Christ-
ian folk life, superstitions,
and customs which were in-
- geniously adapted and
transformed for Jewish use.
"Although circumci-
sion is one of the oldest
and most sacred Jewish
rites — marking the entry
of the male child into the
covenant of Abraham on
the eighth day after his
birth — several customs
introduced by medieval
German Jews were orig-
inally connected with the
sacrament of Baptism.
The shifting of the Jewish
ceremony from the home
to the synagogue during
the Gaonic (post-
Talmudic) period helped
expedite this process.
"From the time the
Jewish child was born until
the circumcision ceremony,
it was deemed necessary in
medieval Germany to
safeguard the child against


demons, especially the
female demon Lilith, to
whom popular belief attri-
buted an eagerness to harm
the mother and the child. To
ward off her evil influence,
talismans and amulets were
hung on the child and
placed around a room of the
of the woman in childbed.
"Anxiety was at its height
on the eve of the circumci-
sion day. This night was
considered the most
dangerous time of all, since
it was believed that demons
and evil spirits would make
a final concerted effort to in-
jure mother and child. To
protect both mother and
child, a night vigil was in-
stituted in the Middle Ages.
"This medieval Jewish
vigil was popularly' known
as Wachnacht (night
watch). Relatives and
friends gathered in the
home to study (lernen) and
recite prayers during the
night so that the child
would not be bewitched (be-
nommen) or hurt; popular
belief held that brit mila
ended the power of all evil
spirits and demons. A re-
lated ceremony was
employed by German Chris-
tians the night before Bap-
tism, as they too believed
that the power of evil spirits
and demons held over
mother and child was bro-
ken only with Baptism.
"Three days prior to
circumcision it was cus-
tomary, especially in the
Rhineland, to call out in
the streets `Zu der Judsch
Kerz' in order to summon
Jewish women to the
house of the woman in
childbed. Assembled
there, they would usually
prepare 12 small candles



Meyers of Dearborn. Miss
Kommel was graduated
from St. Lawrence Univer-
sity with a BA degree and
from Wayne State Univer-
sity Law School with a JD
degree. Her fiance was
graduated from Michigan
State University with a BA
degree and from the •WSU
Law School with a JD de-
gree. A February wedding is



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H Alex Etkin Named Chairman
of Annual Technion Dinner

Alex J. Etkin has been
named chairman of the din-
ner committee for the 35th
'--, annual dinner of the Detroit
Chapter of the American
Technion Society.
The dinner will be held at
6 p.m. Nov. 3 at Cong.
Shaarey Zedek. Alexander
M. Haig, Jr., former Sup-
reme Allied Commander in
Europe and U.S. Secretary
of State, will be the guest
Etkin was educated at the
Detroit Institute of
Technology. He has been an
officer, director and coin-
mittee member in the As-
sociated General Contrac-
tors of America and is on the
board of the Institution for
Construction Management.
He is an arbitrator with the
American Arbitration As-
sociation and a member of
the Engineering Society of
With Technion, Etkin's
activities include mem-
bership on the board of
governors of the Techn-
ion Institute in Israel and
serves as director of the
American Technion Soc-
iety. The Etkins are
members of the Tam-0-
Shanter Country Club.
For information about the
dinner and reservations,


ORT Gathering
Slated for LA


and one large candle, all
to be lit in the synagogue
during the circumcision
Mrs. Shirley Gendler of
Oak Park announces the
"The 12 small candles engagement of her daugh-
symbolized the 12 tribes of ter, Frances Gendler, to
Israel; the large candle was Daniel Jacobs, son of Mr.
called ner tamid (eternal and Mrs. Bradford Jacobs of
light). Among Christians, it Southfield. Miss Gendler is
was also customary to light a senior in the dietetic tech-
12 small candles and one nician's program at Mercy
large candle — in connec- College of Detroit. Her
tion with Baptism. Here, of fiance is a senior at the
course, the 12 symbolized Sherman College of Chirop-
the 12 apostles and the ractic. A June wedding is
large one stood for Jesus. planned.
* * *
Similarly, the child was
Richard M.
brought into the synagogue
through a special door, Kommel of Huntington
known as `Judsch Tirchen' Woods announce the en-
while a special church door gagement of their daughter,
was also employed for the Jody Anne Kommel, to
Christian sacrament of Jeffrey Thomas Meyers,
son of Mr. and Mrs. Carl G.

Friday, October 7, 1983

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