David Bolnick is one of Seattle’s popular mohalim (“moyl” in Yiddish) or practitioner of brit milah, Jewish ritual circumcision. He performed the rite on our youngest son last November. As you can read in this post, we were extremely happy with both his manner during the ceremony, his expertise and his mastery of Jewish traditions regarding milah. I was also floored that he does not ask for a fee for his services (though he accepts voluntary donations which he gives away as tzedakah).
The JTNews notes that David and his craft will be profiled in a 50-minute documentary film, Moyl, to be aired on Thursday, October 20th at 9 PM on KCTS‘ About Us series. The National Film Network provides this overview:
Bolnick is an engaging fellow, a software worker who performs the bris as an avocation, offers his services without charge, and courteously puts up with hearing the same jokes over and over again. In addition to following Bolnick on his rounds, so to speak, Moyl explains the place of the bris – an ancient ceremony of welcome through which a boy is made a part of a larger community – in Jewish culture, and allows parents the opportunity to express their feelings regarding the importance of the practice (viewers will also see the care with which the ritual is performed: a segment on how Bolnick handles the situation when some physical abnormality is detected – a circumstance that a family might understandably find quite distressing – provides a perfect example).
Bolnick did not start out with a dream of becoming a mohel. He was non-Orthodox and a member of the high tech community who also had a stint at Microsoft. Later, he became Orthodox and decided that helping parents perform the mitzvah of milah was a powerful calling (he still keeps a hand in his high tech interests as you can read in this article from The Standard). He apprenticed with another mohel in the Bay Area and when he was ready went out on his own.
David has a refreshing approach toward milah. He wants the parents, whatever their religious affiliation (and even without one), to feel comfortable with the ceremony. He never imposes strict Orthodox practices upon them (as some Orthdox mohelim in Seattle do). For example, if you wish to use a local anesthetic for the ceremony he will do so. Basically, David wants you to help him do a ceremony that you’ll feel comfortable with. He understands that milah may be traumatic for the child and parents too. He aims not to add to the trauma but to reduce it in any way possible.
The JTNews story provides an insight into David’s commitment to his calling:
The bulk of Bolnick’s work is in the Seattle-area, but he travels throughout the Northwest to offer his services. Moyl includes footage of Bolnick in his car, his motor home, a floatplane, numerous ferries and even a commercial flight to Juneau, Alaska. However varied the means of transport, the objective is the same: to come to the aid of families and communities who long to fulfill an ancient and eternal promise.
A discussion guide for teachers is available as a pdf file.