Will NYC’s next Mayor outlaw Circumcision?

The upcoming mayoral election in New York City has covenantal implications with one candidate taking an anti-circumcision that would cut off millions of Jews from their nation.

Andrew Yang: Anti-Circumcision

Andrew Yang is campaigning to be the Democrat candidate in June to replace Bill DeBlasio as mayor of New York City in the general elections in November. Yang, a lawyer and entrepreneur turned philanthropist, is considered high-profile after his unsuccessful campaign in the Democrat presidential primaries in 2020. With only 20% of New Yorkers saying they would support his candidacy, Yang is considered a fringe contender among the two dozen candidates.   But Yang is tech-savvy and has some high-profile endorsements. 

But one controversial plank in his political platform may prove prohibitively controversial. Yang self-identifies as an intactivist, opposing nontherapeutic infant male circumcision.


“Against the practice,” he told a Twitter fan in March 2019 when asked about his stance on “routine infant circumcision?”

He doubled down on this position in an interview with The Daily Beast in 2019, when he said that if he were elected he would incorporate that view into public policy, mainly by pushing initiatives meant to inform parents that they don’t need to have their infants circumcised for health reasons.

“I’m highly aligned with the intactivists,” Yang said. “History will prove them even more correct.”

“Why are we paying for medically unnecessary surgery for someone who didn’t ask for it,” said Chapin, a former health care executive. “Circumcisions themselves are a billion-dollar industry in the US.”

“I have attended multiple friends’ brises and felt privileged to do so. I believe in religious freedom. This is every parent’s personal decision and not a role of government,” he said in a Dec. 2020 tweet.

Though Yang is ethnically Asian, his opposition to circumcision garnered support from anti-Semites and white supremacists who saw it as anti-Jewish. According to a report from Axios, Yang received more mentions on 4chan and 8chan than any other Democratic candidate. He was forced to reject this support in the public forum. 

Yang’s proposal is of questionable legality. In 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill expanding the protection offered by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to include male circumcision. The fundamental Jewish rites of brit milah (circumcision) and shechita (ritual slaughter) have been increasingly challenged by political leaders and activists in Europe.

Circumcision is losing popularity among the general population. In 2013, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that hospital circumcision rates had declined in the United States, from 64.5 percent in 1979 to 58.3 percent in 2010. 

But this seems to be a trend among non-Jews that is not reflected in the Jewish population. In 2017, it was reported that 98% of Israeli parents circumcised their sons.

Covenant Implications

Yang’s opposition to ritual circumcision may hurt him in the election as Jews in New York City comprise approximately 13 percent of the city’s 8.5 million people, making the Jewish community the largest in the world outside of Israel. As of 2014, 1.1 million Jews live in the five boroughs of New York City, and 2 million Jews live in New York State overall.

Circumcision, referred to as Brit Milah, is a visible sign of the covenant between God and the Jews mandated in the Bible.

You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days. As for the homeborn slave and the one bought from an outsider who is not of your offspring, they must be circumcised, homeborn, and purchased alike. Thus shall My covenant be marked in your flesh as an everlasting pact. And if any male who is uncircumcised fails to circumcise the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his kin; he has broken My covenant.” Genesis 17:11-14

This commandment is repeated in Leviticus 12:3. The penalty of non-observance is kareth (spiritual excision from the Jewish nation), considered the most extreme Biblically mandated punishment. Performance of the brit milah on the eighth day is so important that it is even performed on Shabbat. The Talmud, when discussing the importance of Milah, compares it to being equal to all other mitzvot (commandments) based on the gematria (Hebrew numerology) for brit of 612 (Tractate Nedarim 32a)

Perhaps due to this covenant aspect, circumcision has been the target of anti-Semites throughout history. The ancient Greeks prized the foreskin and disapproved of the Jewish custom of circumcision, making it punishable by death. The Roman emperor Hadrian issued a decree which banned circumcision in the empire leading to the Bar Kochba revolt in 132 CE. This ban has even been used in modern times as before glasnost in the mid-1960s, Jewish ritual circumcision was forbidden in the Soviet Union.

Yang: Anti-Israel

In addition to his views on circumcision, Yang may also disenfranchise pro-Israel voters as and advocate for the tragically misnamed “two-state solution” which would establish an independent “Palestinian” entity inside Israel’s borders, ethnically cleansed of Jews, with its capital in Jerusalem, excluding Jewish religious rights from the Temple Mount.  In a statement to The New York Times in February, Yang expressed his support for “Palestinian” refugees and their descendants immigrating to Israel. Even among the extremist Democrat lineup of presidential candidates, this statement placed Yang on the fringe, leading him to walk back that position, blaming the statement on a staffer. He also advocates for a return to the Iran deal. 

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