By GERRY POSNER Most people have heard of the Three Tenors, and the novel “The Three Musketeers” is a classic, but likely not too many are aware that in Toronto there are three mohels who are making the “cut”, all of whom have three things in common.
First, they all are physicians and have had careers as physicians throughout their lives. (Two of them still practice medicine actively.) Second, the three all come from Winnipeg. Third, at different times in their respective careers, each made the decision to become mohels or, in one case, a mohelot. Only Diamond was a mohel prior to his graduation from Medicine.
One might conjecture as to how it came to pass that Winnipeg turned out three doctors who entered the mohel field. That question is perhaps worthy of a doctoral thesis. Some have speculated (Well, at least I have.) that the cold weather of Winnipeg makes your hands cold and in order to keep the fingers warm, it is crucial to keep them busy in activities such as circumcisions. Irrespective of the why, the fact remains that these three, all known to one another quite well, are each in his or her own way helping Toronto’s (and beyond in fact) new born Jewish baby boys enter the covenant as prescribed by Jewish law. The three marvellous mohels are: Dr. Aubie Diamond, Dr. Rochelle Schwartz and Dr. Marty Koyle.
Diamond has been at it the longest. He began in Winnipeg and was, at one time and for a long time, the only mohel in Winnipeg. He began serving as a mohel back in September,1982, while still a fourth year medical student. Back then, becoming a mohel was not even on his radar screen But, the then only working doctor doing ritual circumcisions in Winnipeg, Dr. Richard Boroditsky (who worked in tandem with a rabbi), recognized that, in Diamond, he had an Orthodox medical student who was a logical candidate to become the mohel in Winnipeg. Diamond trained under Boroditsky and studied the religious and Halachic aspect of Brit Milah under Rabbi Charles Grysman. Still, Diamond was for most of the time a family doctor both in Winnipeg and Toronto, where he moved in 1990. He maintained his practice, but at the same time continued to perform Brit Milah and infant circumcisions until 2013, when he retired from medicine and became a full time mohel, the only one with that status in Toronto today. The fact is that Aubie found the Brit Milah experience to be a real passion in his life, as it melded his Judaic origins and heritage with medicine. He says that he has performed over 10, 000 brisses and is still counting. Most significantly, his love and devotion for Brit Milah continues to grow.
Dr. Rochelle Schwartz always wanted to be a doctor from age five. This went against the wishes of her parents, but with a gold medal in science from the University of Calgary and acceptance to several medical schools, her parents, Harry and Fruma, warmed to the idea of their daughter as a doctor. She became a family physician in 1985 and has continued in that area to this day. Over the course of time, she was approached by non- Jewish parents to perform non-ritual circumcisions. When Jewish patients learned this, she was also asked to do Jewish circumcisions. Lacking the training in the religious Halacha, she knew she would have to get proper accreditation as a mohelet. Initially, Rochelle was trained halachally by a Reform rabbi, Danny Gottlieb, as well as tutored in the medical aspect of the job by the well known Dr. Ellie Cass. In 1997, she was ordained by the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College in New York and Los Angeles as a mohelet in Canada, one of the first females in this field in Canada. Since her beginnings, Rochelle has now been accepted in most Conservative synagogues in Toronto. At this stage in her career, Rochelle performs brises for Reform, Humanistic Reconstructionist, Egalitarian, Conservative and, believe it or not, occasionally for Modern Orthodox families.
Dr. Martin Koyle is a relatively recent addition to Toronto, having moved there to be a professor of surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in 2011. Even more recently, he was appointed the head of the Division of Urology and Woman Auxiliary Chair in Urology and Regenerative Medicine. Prior to the move to Toronto, he was the urology “go to” guy in Seattle. His awards and contributions to the field of urology are many and significant. Just the 250 publications to which he has contributed is but one aspect of Marty Koyle’s remarkable resumé. Yet, with all of his titles and recognition by many illustrious medical groups, he wanted to take on the added bonus of becoming a mohel. In fact, he had started on this path while training at Harvard, where he assisted in ritual circumcisions. Later, in Colorado and Seattle, where Koyle worked, he participated in what might be termed as reconstructive surgery on boys who had issues at birth and even helped to write a chapter on the Brit Milah in the operating room. In Toronto, Koyle connected with the leader of North American Reform mohels: Dr. Jack Langer. It was not long before Marty Koyle became part of the Reform programme for physicians who wanted to become mohels. The end result was that Koyle became involved in large part in performing what might be termed difficult circumcisions in a hospital environment, even doing the surgery for Orthodox and Conservative families under rabbinical supervision.
Now, unlike the Three Tenors, you cannot buy a ticket to see the three of them perform in their line of work. Nor will you ever witness them working together. But, when you watch each of them in action, you are indeed watching masters of the Brit Milah.