The Sultans of Snip: America’s Top Mohels
The debate on whether or not you should circumcise your child rages fiercely on both sides of the fence, giving the news cycle plenty of foreskin-related fodder—from anti-circ protesters to grisly stories of babies contracting herpes from controversial oral techniques.
But, until now, no one has looked into the self-promoting, larger-than-life bad boys of bris. Leading Jewish international news agency and wire service JTA has profiled the ballers of the U.S. circumcision scene, relying on insider tips to find those who are as good at their social game as they are with their scalpel.
Here are America’s top mohels.
Michael Rovinsky: The Wolf
When Rovinsky rolls up in his black Dodge Viper with a vanity plate that reads M-O-H-E-L, you know he means business. He’s so badass that he once performed a circumcision in the back of an 18-wheeler at a truck stop. He also hates crying kids and can’t stand the sight of blood, so he gets in and out like a boss. There’s no situation The Wolf can’t handle:
“I set up an adult circumcision program for the Russians. I’m in a doctor’s office, and a 28-year-old Russian immigrant who had been in America for only a week comes in. I scrub him up, give him an injection, put on the shield, ready to go. He says, in broken English, ‘Me do cut like Abraham.’ He reaches for the knife. I say the blessing, he repeats it word for word, and he gives himself a bris. After he was done, I did the stitches and went back to my car.”
Philip Sherman: The Jet-Setter
The king of skin, Sherman has snipped over 20,000 babies, with an elite clientele that flies him around the world to lavish ceremonies in places like Japan, Hong Kong and Bermuda. At home in New York, when he’s not busy chopping hogs, he rides around on one (though, unfortunately, it’s not technically a “chopper”). He even moonlights as an actor:
“I’m in the Screen Actor’s Guild. I’ve been in commercials, movies, TV. I did a film with Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones, Our Idiot Brother. I played a mohel, but the scene was cut. How ironic.”
Yehuda Lebovics: The Orange County Chopper
Hailing from L.A., Lebovics has manhandled the goods of some Academy Award-winning celebrities. Though he won’t name names he kicks it old school by keeping a little black book of the 20,000 circumcisions he’s performed. Some of his high-profile clients can get a little overprotective.
“I guess I didn’t give them back the foreskin. Later, the mother calls me indignant, angry: ‘Where’s the foreskin?’ I’m thinking, What do you want to do with it? You want a live baby, not the dead skin. I go home, open my bag of used instruments, and there in the envelope with the disposable instruments is the foreskin. The father arranged to meet me. When I gave it to him, I said, ‘You can run a DNA test, this is it.'”
Fred Kogen: Carvey Weinstein
Hollywood power mohel Kogen has clients including everyone from Sharon Stone and Jason Alexander to a Jewish Hell’s Angel. He loves a challenge and specializes in trimming skin in those hard-to-cut places—like poorly lit restaurants.
“I always tell people you really need to provide good lighting, as my target’s not so big. I show up, it was like being in the tunnels of Tora Bora, Afghanistan. It was pitch black. This was insane. I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face. For these circumstances, I always bring my own flashlight, a headlight, backups. I don’t trust anybody and need to be prepared for all contingencies. But this place was so dark that one of the guests had to run out to Home Depot and buy a set of industrial lights.”
Emily Blake: Slice Queen
Blake more than holds her own among the men. If people give her shit, she reminds them that “Tziporah, Moses’ wife, circumcised their son.” She also has the gift of the gab, keeping things light when discussing foreskin disposal.
“I give the family three options. Either we can bury it together while I’m there, or if they have a place that has meaning—like at the grave of the grandfather for whom the baby is named—I’ll encourage them to bury it there. Or I tell them I can keep the tip.”
Mordechai Mozes: The Rodfather
Mozes has been slicing and dicing for 44 years and likes to keep it in the family, having passed on the scalpel to his five sons. He’s the guy you call when it comes to tough jobs. Like the time local mohels said there wasn’t enough skin to snip.
“Their rabbi then said they should contact me. I flew out to Cincinnati on the eighth day and did the bris with the doctors observing. After I cut the foreskin, I pulled it out and stitched it up, and it stayed out. People who aren’t mohalim would find it difficult to understand what makes a certain case a hard case. I specialize in brises. I do one thing, and I do it well.”
Paysach Krohn: The Fixer
This fifth-generation mohel works the high-profile political circuit. But with prestige comes a price, meaning that he has to work under considerable pressure not to mess things up—sometimes at gunpoint.
“I went to Bridgeport, Connecticut, and the parents warned me I must come on time. I came early, and I saw they had people on the roof with guns—Secret Service. It turns out Joe Lieberman, who was running for vice president at the time, was the sandek [godfather]. Afterward, someone told me, ‘You know, there was a gun on you the whole bris. This fellow was running for vice president and you had a knife 3 inches from his heart.’”