The Berit Mila Program began in 1984 as the collaborative effort of Dr. David James and Rabbi Lewis Barth, Ph.D. That same year, three mohalim/ot were certified, including Dr. Deborah Cohen, who became the first certified Reform mohelet. As an increasing number of liberal Jews were choosing berit mila for their sons, it became clear that an alternative to the classic moyel was needed to meet the needs of Reform and liberal Jews. Rabbi Barth and Dr. James envisioned mohalim who would do more than arrive at a home, utter a few prayers, circumcise, then leave – they would seek to make the ritual of berit mila a relevant and beautiful ceremony for the families they served.
The Berit Mila Program of Reform Judaism seeks to make the age old practice of berit mila, available to Jewish families as a meaningful and relevant Jewish life-cycle ritual.
One of our primary activities is the training and certification of Reform mohalim (sometimes called moyels) to perform mila. The Berit Mila Program provides training for qualified medical practitioners (physicians and Certified Nurse Midwives) that have the medical skills and expertise to perform the circumcision (berit) the religious education.
Today, there are more than three hundred practicing Reform mohalim – men and women – throughout the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Spain who have completed the program and received certification from the Berit Mila Board of Reform Judaism. These mohalim combine a medical expertise which puts parents at ease, with a religious orientation and knowledge to make berit mila a meaningful and beautiful part of each family’s life-cycle rituals.
Additionally, Reform mohalim serve many families which Orthodox moyels would refuse to serve. Whether it is a family in which the mother has converted to Judaism, or if it is a mixed marriage in which the father is Jewish but the mother is not, or if it is a gay or lesbian couple, the Berit Mila Program recognizes that families of all types are committed to Jewish life and living.