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Biography

Emily J. Blake, MD, is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist who has performed thousands of circumcisions. Dr. Blake was profiled in the Philadelphia Inquirer and has been a guest on the WABC radio Sunday morning program “Religion on the Line”, with Rabbi Joseph Potasnik and Father Paul Keenan. The “Loyal Moyel,” as one of her families dubbed her, Dr. Blake travels throughout the Northeast corridor and the Mid-Atlantic region in the course of her work.

Mohel Emily’s approach to the brit milah ceremony is a very personal one. She works directly with the family in creating a participatory service that is shaped by the specific needs and desires of the parents, intended to involve and include as many members of the family as possible. Realizing that family dynamics may be complex and delicate, Dr. Blake makes a special effort to acknowledge and accommodate situations that are “different” or difficult. She is sensitive to issues that may arise in connection with divorced/blended families, gay and lesbian partners, interfaith relationships, and conversions.

Dr. Blake’s caring, nurturing manner and gentle handling of the baby have helped to comfort many anxious parents, who are already dealing with the challenges of a new arrival, in addition to the sometimes mixed emotions that may accompany the anticipation of circumcising their son. Trained in both the Conservative and Reform traditions, she is also able to offer counsel in the halachic elements of brit milah.

The well-being of the baby is central to Dr. Blake’s approach to performing the circumcision. In preparing the baby for the ceremony, she uses several proven methods of pain relief. She begins by arriving early and giving the baby a sugar ball dipped in sweet wine to suck on. In many hospitals, providing a baby with a sugar water solution is currently practiced for the same purpose. Sugar (in the wine as well as the granules) triggers the production of beta endorphins, which are the body’s natural morphine. Dr. Blake also advises the parents to apply EMLA cream (a topical lidocaine formulation) and to give the baby a dose of infant Tylenol about an hour before the ceremony is to begin. EMLA provides some degree of numbing to the area, and is an acceptable alternative to giving an injection of lidocaine.

Though there are some mohelim who express opposition to the use of EMLA cream based on their belief that it is somehow unsuited for application to infants, Dr. Blake is aware of no scientific supporting evidence for this position. Obtaining the cream does require a prescription, and so a physician’s order is needed to dispense it.

The safety of each baby Dr. Blake cares for is further enhanced by her selection of the clamp needed to be in place in order to prepare the child for circumcision. There are two types in use, one known as the “mogen,” the other as the "gomco." Dr. Blake chooses the gomco clamp because it prevents any damage to the head of the penis. This instrument does require a greater degree of manual dexterity in its use, but by its design affords a cleaner, more aesthetic result.

Following the bris ceremony, Mohel Emily remains with the family through the first diaper change, explaining the care needed for the infant and helping the parents to feel comfortable performing it themselves. She telephones the family that night to check on how they and the baby are doing, and follows up through the next week, making sure the healing process is continuing normally. If needed, Dr. Blake will also visit the family again in order to ensure that the baby is fully cared for.

Certainly Brit Milah is not simply a surgical procedure, but an ancient ritual with an almost mystical quality, literally embodying the Covenant (Brit) of God with the Jewish people. The gentleness, caring and skill that Dr. Blake brings to the performance of the rite is coupled with her personal philosophy of Brit Milah, which is founded in her deep commitment to Judiasm. Through her medical training, Dr. Blake became skilled in performing circumcision, but her Jewish identity led her to “question the difference between a medical circumcision and the Brit Milah.” She was then moved to obtain the religious training that allowed her physician’s abilities to be guided by a profound spiritual intent.

Mohel Emily’s desire is to make the ceremony, in her own words, a “gentle, joyful occasion for the whole family, an experience that makes us proud and happy to be Jewish.” And, as she concludes, “this what I strive to attain.”