Dr. Fred R. Kogen of California has been placed on the “Known Genital Mutilators” directory at neonatalcutting.org.
From the New York Times 12/96 “Mohel of the Moment:”
“He has done his thing at the Four Seasons Hotel, private tennis courts and Wilshire Boulevard penthouses and even appeared on the old “Joan Rivers Show.” His clients have included top Hollywood agents, directors, producers, Jake (Body by Jake) Steinfeld and Michelle Pfeiffer, a non-Jew who wanted “a nice little secular” circumcision for her son.”
From Dr. Kogen’s website ebris.com:
“About Dr. Kogen:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – B.S. Biology and Psychology 1980 Phi Beta Kappa; University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine – M.D. 1984
Featured Speaker – Southern California Perinatal Educators Association
Thousands of Bris ceremonies and circumcisions performed since 1985
Stopped practicing as a general practitioner in 1992 to begin career as a full-time professional mohel. Has performed Bris ceremonies throughout Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Texas. Internationally in Beijing, Gibraltar and Hong Kong.”
So, the doctor quit his GP and now exclusively mutilates baby boys and gives lectures on perinatal education – kind of like a pedophile who gives speeches about how best to care for children. Except we pay him to do it using horrible cutting weapons.
Under “Goals and Philosophy:”
I have a vision of what the ideal bris should be. The ceremony should have beauty, meaning and should leave everyone present with the sense they had been a part of something special. To attain this goal, it is my belief is that the ceremony should be as medically safe and non-traumatic to the baby as possible, spiritually uplifting and educationally enlightening. It should be inclusive of family members and friends; both Jews and non-Jews, men and women. Whoever is important to my families is important to me.
I encourage the introduction of elements which lend beauty and uniqueness to each ceremony. The ceremonial table should be covered with a lovely tablecloth, perhaps even the wedding chuppah. Flower petals scattered about the edge of the table and a simple short flower arrangement lend additional elegance. Any important family kiddush cups should be included along with heirloom items such as candle sticks or special talit. A few family photos in addition to mementos from the person whom the baby is named is another great idea. Finally, a letter to the baby composed by the parents and grandparents brings lasting thoughts to an otherwise short-lived but memorable occasion. These passages can be read to the baby at other significant moments in his life such as his Bar Mitzvah, wedding or bris of his own son.
A properly conducted bris can be one of the most unforgettable moments of one’s life and should always be a powerful and wonderful experience. It should reconnect us to our heritage as Jews and you as a family to those beloved departed, all of whom had a bris upon their eighth day of life.
If the doctor actually means it when he says “the ceremony should be as medically safe and non-traumatic to the baby as possible” he wouldn’t cut, crush and amputate the baby boy’s genitals, anymore than he would cut a baby girl’s genitals. And as for the doctor’s oath to “First, do no harm,” I wonder why he would think it’s no harm to a boy, but a great harm to a girl – why? Hatred of baby boys, or ignorance?
Read on to see how some in Hollywood embrace all the prenatal health concerns for mom and baby – no alcohol, no smoking, take vitamins – but allow someone to fondle and amputate part of his functioning genitals at great risk to him while violating his human and constitutional rights.
Under “Press Releases,” from an article in the Los Angeles Magazine, Best of L.A., 7/99 “Expert Cutter”
No, we don’t mean hair. Dr Fred Kogen has helped soothe the nerves of hundreds of parents, both Jews and non-Jews, who opt for a circumcision at home. He is the only mohel in town to be named Cosmopolitan’s Bachelor of the Month, and his mix of traditional techniques, age-old ceremony, modern anesthetics and pleasant bedside manner has made him a natural choice for such discriminating parents as Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Alexander. “Dr. Kogen is very sure of himself,” says one local pediatrician. “You want that in a mohel.” And, no, he doesn’t charge by the inch.
I think Cosmo would have named Kogen something else “of the Month” had he been proud of circumcising little girls.
And the article is correct about those “discriminating parents;” they protect their baby girls, yet happily cut their baby boys.
From an article in the New York Times, 12/96, “Mohel of the Moment:”
He has done his thing at the Four Seasons Hotel, private tennis courts and Wilshire Boulevard penthouses and even appeared on the old “Joan Rivers Show.” His clients have included top Hollywood agents, directors, producers, Jake (Body by Jake) Steinfeld and Michelle Pfeiffer, a non-Jew who wanted “a nice little secular” circumcision for her son.
He is Dr. Fred R. Kogen (pictured below), and he is the most popular non-rabbinic mohel (pronounced moyle) in Los Angeles – meaning, for the untutored, that he is an M.D. who performs the bris, the natural circumcision of 8-day-old Jewish boys. Kogen, 37, works all of California but concentrates on Los Angeles, where there’s a high demand for an attractive, surgically competent mohel. “I’m the alternative,” he says, “to the guy who shows up dressed like a Hasid and should not be holding a scalpel.” Kogen,who in his 12-year career has also performed brises for Hell’s Angels in the Mojave Desert, says the celebrity event is a particular challenge. “At any bris, there’s anxiety,” he says.
“People are holding their breath, watching you. But in L.A., Brandon Tartikoff is watching you, or whoever. I did the bris for the producers Wendy Finerman and Mark Canton, and, after, I’m outside and this guy comes over and says: ‘A lot of that sounded pretty real. It was authentic.’ And I realize, this guy is critiquing my performance. On, basically, a circumcision.”
For his part, Kogen respects, understands and, as it were, caters to his clientele. He wears a “not quite Armani” Italian suit, has call waiting on his cell phone and drives a Lexus. (“If the car’s too junky, they think, How serious can he be?”) He also takes the work very seriously and encourages his clients to do the same. “For everyone, movie stars included, it’s a question of, How can I make this meaningful? So they try to make everyone feel involved – the relatives, people serving, the guy making the video, the industry connections.”
And, of course, the mohel. “I always get an excellent parking space,” he says with satisfaction.
I hope the unfortunate boys circumcised by this overpaid genital mutilator one day use that Hollywood money and sue the doctor for numerous breaches of ethics and the law.
It really is scary how something such as circumcision could be so veiled in secrecy and ignorance as to become almost chic, no doubt because an infant can’t fight back, ward off the attack, or sue.
From an article in Medical Economics, 6/92, “Hell’s Angel Brit”
“Brukheem Ha-ba-eem b’sheym adonai. Blessed are you who come in the name of God. ” On a small wooden table in the living room, I had placed my instruments, two candies, and four glasses of wine.
“The rite of circumcision has been enjoined upon us as a sign of our covenant with God, ” I read.
I introduced the godmother, godfather, and the sandek, who is usually the baby’s grandfather, but who, in this case, was an older friend of the family. He was a strapping man with a dark bearded face, which began to grow gentler, I thought, as my words filtered through the room.
‘Blessed is the Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, by whose Mitzvot we are hallowed. ”
The child was passed from godmother to sandek to me, and the room fell silent as I prepared for the critical moment. I gently placed the child in a restraint and asked his father to stroke his head. I looked up. Two enormous men, who probably see more blood in the local bar every Friday night, were breathing heavily and seemed absolutely white with anxiety. It’s a common reaction, but the queasiness would soon disappear. Working quickly, I placed the small stainless steel clamp on the baby’s penis between the foreskin and the glans and shut it tight. Then with one precise surgical stroke, I removed the foreskin. From the room, I detected an audible gasp. I removed the clamp. A tiny drop of blood, which is normal for the procedure, appeared. I dressed the cut with sterile gauze.
Young Andrew didn’t even cry.
“Mazel Tov!” I cried.
“Mazel Tov!” yelled the group.
“O God, we give thanks to You for the gift of our child, who has entered into the covenant of Abraham. Keep him from all harm, and grant that he may be a source of joy to us and all his dear ones, ” I continued. “Be with us, and give us health and length of days. Teach us to rear our child with care and affection, with wisdom and under- standing, that he may be a faithful child of our people and a blessing to the world. We give thanks to You, 0 Lord, the Source of Life. Amen. ”
When the ceremony had concluded, it was time, as usual, for the seudat mitzvah, the religious feast. The Talmud says it is a commandment to celebrate with a meal. What, I wondered, would be served?
Within seconds, caps were being popped off more tall bottles of Bud, and someone passed around a tray of sandwiches. I took one, peeled back the white bread and found inside a slice of ham.
“Just a little joke, Doc!” someone shouted. Then the room erupted into laughter.
On the long ride back to Los Angeles, I thought to myself how the Brit Milah which I’d just performed is God’s promise that the Jewish people will continue to exist. Even out in the Mojave Desert, it was important to keep the lineage intact. With so many mixed marriages, a dwindling Jewish population, families feeling isolated from their community, it is imperative that the message not be lost. I imagined little Andrew all grown up. If he’s lucky, I thought, he’ll appreciate his faith. I had a funny notion of a young biker, screaming across the desert on his Harley chopper, dressed in black leather. And a beanie.
It’s obvious this is a religious ritual and not medically needed surgery. As such, and in agreement with the AAP’s recent warning about surgery on newborns, no person should be allowed to perform this risky surgery on unconsenting infants.
For another view from a reluctant sandek (person who holds the baby), watch this amazing guy tell you about his journey.
Under “Concepts: Circumcisions in General:”
In contrast to many of my professional colleagues whom are mohalim/ot, I am NOT a strong proponent of routine non-ritual newborn circumcision. In fact, I have what I believe to be a “balanced” opinion regarding the benefits versus detriments of the procedure. For families who seek newborn circumcision for religious, cultural or traditional reasons, I see no reason to dissuade their decision to circumcise. But for others, their decision may be based on criteria I believe to be unfounded such as the desire to have the baby look just like his father or the belief that being circumcised is “cleaner”. I feel that it is ultimately the parent’s decision as to what is the best course of action for their children and I try to guide them to the best of my ability. I recognize that there are some medical and cultural benefits that can be obtained through the judicious use of circumcision but these benefits are not so great as to represent a compelling reason to circumcise all newborns as a matter of routine.
There are risks too, most prominently excessive bleeding immediately after the circumcision, as is the case with any operative procedure. Other risks include poor healing, infection or damage to the penis, although these complications are extraordinarily rare especially when the circumcision is performed by a competent individual.
Sorry, doc, it’s just not ethical to subject infants to permanent amputation of part of the penis “for religious, cultural or traditional reasons.” What the doctor gets right is many who circumcise base their decision on criteria he believes “to be unfounded such as the desire to have the baby look just like his father or the belief that being circumcised is “cleaner.”
But his colossal blunder is his lack of understanding that in the law there is a universal human right that every infant or adult, girl or boy, has to bodily integrity and protection from harm. That’s why if he attempted to circumcise me he would go to jail.
Why do we ignore the rights and screams of these abused babies? Because an infant is no match for an “adult” wielding a knife. Dr. Kogen, pick on someone your own size.
And then “Young Children at a Bris:”
I have always been uncomfortable about expressing my opinion regarding young children as guests to a Bris. I suggest but do not insist that young children not attend. I have been afraid of being accused of not liking young children… which is absolutely not true. I do however believe that a Bris is not an appropriate venue for children under the age of four. First, they have a limited attention span, nowhere near the range of 30 minutes necessary for the duration of the ceremony. Second, when they begin to fidget, play, speak, fall and sometimes cry, my concentration as a “surgeon” is affected. Third, it is probably not a good idea to have the newborn baby undergoing the ceremony exposed so early in its life to so many young children.
Most parents would not think of bringing their 18-month-old child to a wedding, Bar Mitzvah or funeral. I am equally sure they would never allow their children in the operating room while another member of their family was undergoing surgery. They would want the surgeon to be able to concentrate no matter how fast the procedure. Finally the dynamic of the ceremony is completely changed when there are several young children in the room. When a guest child speaks out or cries, all the guests turn their heads and focus their attention on the speaking or crying child and not on the family and honored baby where it belongs. As a result, the intimacy, spirituality and powerful engagement of the ceremony is disrupted.
If there were several youngsters in the group, perhaps having someone watch over them in another room while the ceremony is conducted would be a good option. That way they could join everyone once the Bris was concluded.
Who ever accused the doctor of not liking young children – why would anyone think that?
Maybe years of cutting babies have gotten to the doctor in this odd concern he has for the ears (and not the genitals) of babies when he says “it is probably not a good idea to have the newborn baby undergoing the ceremony exposed so early in its life to so many young children.”
Funny, all of a sudden it’s “surgery” in an “operating room” instead of someone’s living room ill-equipped for surgery. An “operating room” doesn’t allow any relatives so let’s not confuse this traveling surgeon’s gig-in-a-bag with a sterile operating room. The risks of these house-call surgeries are unknown, as there is no data kept about fatalities due to circumcision, yet we suspect it is hundreds that needlessly die each year.
Under “Services,” we see:
On occasion I am asked to perform a naming ceremony for a newborn girl. This ceremony is referred to as a Bris Bat or Covenant of Daughters. The ceremony is embraced by Jewish families who affiliate with either the Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist movements, and is of equivalent relevance to the Bris Mila ceremony for boys… minus the circumcision of course! There is no active (positive) requirement (i.e. Mitzvah) to perform a naming or Bris Bat ceremony mentioned in the Torah as there is for the Bris Mila, but there is no prohibition against it. Therefore, in the interest of gender equivalency and active recognition of baby girls, the Bris Bat ceremony was developed concurrently in various congregations throughout the United States. Prior to the development of the Bris Bat, a simple naming ceremony was performed in the community synagogue one week after the daughter’s birth during a Friday night (Shabbat) service. The baby girl would be brought up to the bimah after her father’s Aliyah (or father and mother’s Aliyah, depending on affiliation) and the Rabbi would bless and name the baby in front of all the congregational members.
Why is the girl’s ceremony “minus the circumcision of course!” is there some hatred of boys that goes on here? Hatred of the foreskin? Why do they care, it’s not their foreskin!
Under “Questions to Ask a Mohel” we read:
What technique is used to perform the circumcision?
Mogen Clamp Technique
This instrument allows the fastest procedure time and is least traumatic to the baby, in my opinion. It is also a “kosher” method of circumcision, important if the family is observant or if an observant observer will be present at the Bris.
Does the mohel/et perform a “prep” on the baby? If so, exactly what does the prep entail?
I do not “prep” the baby in any way, except for the topical application of ELAMAX anesthetic cream.
The “prep” usually entails strapping the baby on a restraining board, cutting and clamping using the Gomco clamp, then bringing the baby out for the ceremony, strapped and clamped, covered by a blanket so that the device is not visible to the guests. A final cut, necessary with the use of the Gomco Clamp, occurs later during the ceremony.
Is the baby restrained on a board at any time during the ceremony?
No restraining board…
unless the parents insist on its use. I feel that the use of a pillow is more traditional, less traumatic to the baby, works equally well and it allows the baby to be held in the comforting arms of loved ones rather than restrained by velcro straps while laying on a cold, hard board. Additionally, the board is inherently abhorrent to many of the guests and family members who watch the procedure being conducted. It scares them to see the baby restrained on a board.
So, you do use the restraining board, and you prefer the parents not see the mutilation started under the blanket; why not let them see this “powerful and wonderful experience?”
Under “Potential Complications” we read:
Newborn circumcision is very safe in experienced hands. It is performed daily across the United States on thousands of newborn boys with rare complication.
There are, however, potential complications with circumcision as with any surgery and parents should be aware of this remote possibility.
Most common complications are:
Bleeding immediately after the procedure.
Bleeding several hours after the procedure.
Extremely rare complications:
Damage to the penis. This includes inadvertent laceration, abrasion, amputation, crushing or other trauma.
Damage to surrounding area. This includes inadvertent laceration, abrasion, blunt trauma or other unforeseen complication.
Uncontrollable profuse bleeding.
(I want to emphasize that rare complications of circumcision occur once in several millions of procedures and is the type of risk that is analogous to the risk of being struck by lightning)
What does this all mean to me?
Complications are not necessarily the “fault” of the practitioner or mohel. Most times, a complication is a random event and easily dealt with. A well-trained mohel or physician should be capable of contending with most common complications. If a mohel tells you they have never had a complication in their career, they are either brand new at the profession and have limited experience as a mohel, or they are telling you an untruth. Given enough ceremonies a complication is to be occasionally expected. What one does not want to learn is that a particular mohel has a consistent history of complication with their circumcisions. Your best bet is to strive to hire a mohel, be the mohel a physician or non-physician, who has a lot of experience and a universally good reputation.
Complications are the fault of the practitioners and parents involved in this unnecessary surgery, and 100% of circumcisions result in varying degrees of scarring and loss of sensation. There are many other possible complications, including death.
Under “Instructions” we see:
A. Purchase the following medical supplies for wound aftercare:
Vaseline or pure white petroleum jelly in a tube – 2 tubes of at least 3.0 oz.
Neosporin Plus Pain Relief Ointment or Mycitracin-Plus ointment – 2 tubes of at least 1.0 oz.
3×3″ or 4×4″ Sterile surgical gauzes (2 boxes or approx. 50 total gauzes)
B. Preparations for the baby:
Feed the baby until the ceremony begins. Dress the baby as you wish… just no snapped one-piece suits.
Administer the Tylenol drops (Apap) 30 min. prior to the ceremony.
Dosage: 0.4 ml = (1/3 eye dropper).
C. Have a parking space for the Mohel (I keep emergency supplies in the car)
D. Room Preparation:
Large open room — Preferably dining or living room. Ceremony should be held inside.
Because guests remain standing during a Bris, be sure to clear the room of coffee tables, chairs, etc. Please remember to raise the chandelier… if it is suspended low! Also, make sure that there is good lighting.
Large table — sturdy, large, waist-high table (dining or breakfast table preferable, minimum. 4x4ft.), placed 3-4 feet away from a wall. Any shape, will do… No flimsy card or diaper changing tables please!
Excellent light source and also… two tall tapered candles with holders. Please supply two red roses in place of candles, if the Bris falls on a Saturday. Please make sure there is plenty of light in the room and over the ceremonial table. I really need good light to facilitate a safe and successful circumcision.
One chair for each Sandek. The Sandek sits during much of the ceremony.
In other words, try to transform your living room into a makeshift operating room while the doctor pretends it’s ethical and legal. Make sure he has that parking spot for emergencies/a clean getaway.
Let me add my two cents to the “Sample Letters” idea:
I’m sorry I couldn’t stop the mutilation of my two step-grandsons; I did try, I voiced my concern.
If my only daughter has any sons, I will be there to inform her, maybe ask her doctor to get informed and stop it.
I will do what I can for those who are unprotected from unrestricted cutting and abuse.
Dr. Kogen’s practice information follows:
Phone: (800) 644-4479