Pediatric surgeon Jonathan Meisel has performed circumcisions for years, but it was only recently that the 39-year-old decided to go through the process to become a certified mohel.
Over the summer, the Druid Hills resident and member of The Temple took a 12-week training program to be able to perform brit milah.
He has performed several of the rituals since early September.
“I found out that all Reform mohels are doctors, and I’m a pediatric surgeon,” Meisel said. “I do circumcisions all the time, usually in the operating room or the neo-natal intensive care unit. When we moved to Atlanta, I talked to some of the rabbis at The Temple, and they were really excited because there aren’t many Reform mohels in Atlanta, and the ones that are here are on the older side.”
The once-per-week webinar training focused on the history of circumcisions, the prayers and the customs of brit milah. Meisel said everyone taking the course already knew how to perform a circumcision, so hands-on training wasn’t necessary.
“Everyone had a different comfort level with the Hebrew and the history behind the bris and designing the ceremony,” he said. “We talked a lot about interfaith couples and about how the definition of a Jew varies in different parts of the country.”
Meisel grew up in Queens, N.Y., and was part of a Reform congregation growing up. He moved to Atlanta three years ago with his wife, Jane Lowe Meisel, who is from here and is also a doctor.
To be a certified mohel in Reform Judaism, you must be a doctor. Outside Reform Judaism, many mohels have little medical training. Meisel said it’s more like a mentorship program.
“I think having a medical background is definitely a benefit,” he said. “Complications of circumcisions are quite rare, but if one were to occur, it’s a great benefit for a mohel to be a surgeon or know how to deal with bleeding for the rare occasion that it might occur. But some of these Orthodox mohels have done hundreds or even thousands of circumcisions now, and I assume they are quite good at it.”
Another skill Meisel brings to the table is bedside manner. As a pediatric surgeon, he deals with nervous parents on a regular basis. He said one of his strengths is calming nervous Jewish mothers before the ceremony.
Meisel now is available to perform brit milah in Atlanta, although his schedule is busy between working at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston and taking care of his two sons at home. Interested parents should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eventually, Meisel would like to join up with his mother-in-law, Joyce Bihary, a retired bankruptcy judge, to start a bris-based business venture.
“After a bris, it’s customary to have bagels and lox and cream cheese,” he said. “Kind of a nice celebratory meal after the ceremony. With my mother-in-law being in Atlanta and retired, she came up with the idea that she would help cater the bris because how great would that be if a mom didn’t have to worry about arranging the food? But I’m pretty busy, so it might be a while until that gets up and running.”
At the very least, Meisel already has a slogan.
“Some of my friends came up with the slogan ‘a snip and a schmear,’” he said. “But right now it’s more of a joke than anything.”