Jewish News, December 11, 1998
Dr. Kenneth E. Katz is a certified mohel now serving the Denver metro area. Dr. Katz is a board-certified pediatrician with a solo practice in south suburban Denver. Dr. Katz learned how to perform circumcisions in 1980 during his medical training at UCLA Medical School and has performed circumcisions on his newborn mail patients ever since. He has done 50-100 circumcisions each year and more than 1,000 in his career. As his and his family’s Jewish observance level increased, it seemed a natural progression for him to learn to perform the ancient Jewish rite of brit malah.
Dr. Katz says, “I love the ware, spiritual feeling of assisting Jewish families in the bris of their new-born sons. The word bris means covenant. It is one of the oldest traditions of our faith, dating back almost 4,000 years ago when G-d commanded Abraham to circumcise himself as a symbol of the connection between G-d and the Jewish people. I cannot think of another ceremony that is more important or has withstood the test of time longer than bris. It is much more than just a medical procedure.”
“When I perform a bris, I am acting as the parents’ agent, assisting them in their partnership with G-d to complete His creation and welcome their baby into the Children of Israel. By removing the foreskin, or orlah, we help perfect the physical body, thereby hoping to perfect the child’s spiritual essence, his neshama. This is a very powerful mitzvah.”
“It is truly an honor for me to be able to use my medical skills to help parents fulfill their obligation to circumcise their baby boys. I find it a wonderful and meaningful spiritual experience.”
Inspired by their son Joel’s religious spirit, Dr. Katz and his family have enjoyed their path toward increasing Jewish observance. He was raised as a Conservative Jew in San Diego and settled in Denver after completing his medical training. When Dr. Katz heard about a course, “Brit Kodesh,” offered at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York for physicians who wanted to become mohelim, he jumped at the opportunity. The course was subsequently cancelled due to low enrollment, but Dr. Katz enlisted the help of Denver’s Rabbi Bruce Dollin and Cantor Martin Goldstein, of HEA, to design a study program that matched and exceeded the curriculum of the Brit Kodesh course.
studied the brachot (prayers) of the bris service with the Cantor,
and followed a rigorous program of learning with the rabbi, studying the halachot,
or the body of Jewish law pertaining to bris, starting with commandments
in the Torah itself, other Biblical references, Talmudic sources, excerpts from
the Sulchan Aruch pertaining to bris milah, midrash and
current texts. He
also worked with and received technical assistance from a rabbi and mohel in New
Mohelim are expected to lead observant Jewish lives, following G-d’s mitzvoth. One reason the Brit Kodesh course may have not gotten a lot of applicants. Dr. Katz believes, is that it requires mohlim to be Shabbos-observant, to keep kosher and to daven daily. This was a natural for Dr. Katz as he and his family had made these commitments several years ago. They belong to the HEA, where Dr. Katz coordinates the daily morning minyan and his wife Karin serves on the synagogue’s executive board. Their son, Joel, attends the Skokie yeshiva outside Chicago, and their daughter Morissa, who will soon have her Bat Mitzvah at the HEA, attends RMHA.
successfully completing his course of study, Dr. Katz recently was formally
recognized by Rabbi Paul Drazen, president of the Midwest States Region of the
Rabbinical Assembly, as a certified mohel.
In addition to the over 1,000 hospital circumcisions he has done, Dr.
Katz has already performed over 20 brises. He
says he performs a fully kosher bris, using the traditional izmel
knife, chanting all appropriate prayers, and explaining the service to those
unfamiliar with it.
He can perform the ceremony along with the family’s rabbi or cantor, or he can
lead the bris service on his own.
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