Dr. Allan Shefrin has worked for 13 years as a pediatric emergency department doctor at Ottawa Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). Having taken the step to commit to volunteering for the Jewish community and to raising his children Jewish (they both attend the Ottawa Jewish Community School), it seemed like a natural merger of his passions to become a community mohel (the person who performs a ritual circumcision on baby boys on their eighth day).
Initially, he began conversations with Rabbi Eytan Kenter, formally of Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI, where Dr. Shefrin is a member) and Dr. Lisa Rosenkrantz, one of Ottawa’s current community mohelim. He then approached the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation for support to bring together a group of doctors to receive this training together to generally increase the options for Ottawa residents and the spread the workload for Ottawa mohelim.
When the group idea didn’t pan out, Shefrin continued his study on his own. Micah Garten, Interim CEO of the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation says, “Allan’s commitment was clear. Even when the group training didn’t pan out, he persevered and did it on his own. The Foundation was happy to support him throughout the process.” Shefrin learned the halachot (Jewish laws) involved, the prayers that need to be said, and the ceremonial pieces required for a “kosher brit milah.” Then he shadowed Dr. Rosenkrantz for proper technique, use of anesthesia, clapping methods, and follow up care. Because circumcision is questioned by some in the broader community, doctors are not receiving training in medical school on the procedure. Therefore, it is even more important that a mohel-in-training shadow an experienced mohel to learn the proper technique.
One of the advantages of using a doctor for circumcision is the availability of injectable, local anesthesia. Shefrin states, “As a physician it would be unethical for me not to use local anesthesia and since I can, I do.”
In addition, Shefrin is proud to be a part of a family’s Jewish journey. He continues, “For families who chose to raise their children Jewish, and want their sons welcomed in the traditional way, the brit milah, is one of the few opportunities when someone outside the family is instrumental to creating the connection to our people. It is a great privilege to be that connector.”
“Also, living in a small Jewish community, it’s a way to keep services local. It would be a shame if someone had to bring in a mohel from out of town.” While Shefrin acknowledges that there are other mohel options in Ottawa, there are very few who are also doctors.
In addition to providing the procedure of ritual circumcision, Shefrin is versed in the prayers and religious ceremonies related to a brit milah. “If a family has a connection to a clergy person and want them there for the brit milah, I welcome the collaboration, but I am fully trained to perform all parts of the ceremony.”
As mentioned, Shefrin is very committed to the Jewish community and has served as a past president of the Soloway JCC and has continued as a member of their board for the past 12 years. His years of commitment led to him being honoured with the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award in 2019. The award comes with a stipend to be used on a project, training, or trip that furthers the recipient’s commitment to community. Shefrin waited until the right project came along and used his award to fund his training and is very grateful to the community for the opportunity to continuing serving in this way.
Information about Dr. Allan Shefrin’s services can be found at his website.