|Directed by:||Moti Krauthamer||Rating:||TV-PG|
|Release Date:||2004||Running Time:||51 mins.|
|More Info:||David Bolnick's official webpage||Category:||America|
Most people cringe at the mere mention of circumcision, but David Bolnick, the traveling Jewish ritual circumciser, takes pride in the act. In Moyl, Emmy Award-winning director Moti Krauthamer profiles the man thousands of Jewish parents have trusted to make the cut that welcomes their child into the Jewish community.
“I wanted a real moyl, with a beard and a hat,” one father explains, “so there would be no problems.” To meet these criteria (a beard, a hat, and competence), the proud new father flew Bolnick out to Juno, Alaska to perform his son’s bris [circumcision].
Moyl follows Bolnick as he travels across the continent, conducting bris ceremonies, which are held eight days after a Jewish boy is born. During the ceremony, the child is officially introduced to family and friends, his name is announced, and, as a sign of the continued covenant between God and Abraham, he is circumcised. The film explores the significance of Jewish circumcision on a theoretical and personal level, and shows how the practice has been adapted for contemporary society. While anxious and excited parents explain the significance of the centuries-old practice, Bolnick speaks candidly about everything from pain, to mistakes, to worn-out circumcision jokes.
It probably goes without saying, but Bolnick is a very unique man. He approaches his work with professionalism and reverence, but there are times when his comfort level with his task separates him from the average person. On a glass shelf in his home, where one would expect to find tacky glass knick-knacks or flowers, Bolnick displays his work instruments. And he’s ready and willing to explain to his guests how each shiny metal object works.
Bolnick claims the traditional Jewish method of circumcision is more effective than the standard clinical procedure. His tricks of the trade, he says, keep pain to a minimum and allow for a speedy recovery. In contrast, a hospital circumcision is an extensive and grueling process that requires a fair amount of recovery time, Bolnick explains, but his quick and easy procedure is completed within minutes and requires only a band-aid for finishing. The baby hardly has time to cry.
The documentary also shares interviews with fathers who understood it as their responsibility to “make the cut” and were brave enough to do it themselves. These fathers reflect on how it changed their relationships with their sons as they try to describe the “awesome feeling” of entering another person into a community. “It was as close to spirituality as I’ve ever come,” one man admits.
Everyone makes mistakes, though — even moyls. “No one can do 100 circumcisions without one or two not turning out as pretty as you would like,” Bolnick explains. Bolnick’s mistakes are especially burdensome because he’s a part of the community that he’s servicing. Going to synagogue, he watches the little boys he has operated on grow up and become men, knowing their private embarrassment.
Regardless, the circumcision is a sacred act, a sign of the covenant that has been passed down for thousands of years. Bolnick suggests that the practice is unique because it is the only time Jews are allowed to alter their bodies. More significantly, it identifies the child as a Jew and suggests that he will continue to follow the covenant throughout his life.
But when it comes down to it, for Bolnick, it’s all about family and tradition. It’s a little bit strange and a little bit wonderful that he’s seen people travel “from France, from Italy, from Israel, from South Africa, even from Australia, just to see the little boy have a circumcision.”