The Missionary Mogul

The New York Times/September 18, 2007

When Lev Leviev's first son, Shalom, was born in 1978, Leviev decided to circumcise the baby himself. He was only 22 years old. He had never studied the art of circumcision and never performed one. But he had seen it done. His father, Avner, had been an underground mohel in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbek Republic, at a time when performing any Jewish ritual act could get you in trouble with the Soviet authorities. The family had been in Israel for eight years. There were plenty of trained ritual mohelim in Tel Aviv. But Leviev regarded the act of circumcising his own son as both a religious duty and the fulfillment of a family tradition.

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Avner Leviev advised his son to prepare by cutting chicken legs, but young Lev felt no need to practice. "I knew what I was doing," he told me when I spoke to him recently at his office in Yahud, a suburb of Tel Aviv. "I was a diamond cutter, after all. It's not all that different." He extended his hands, palms down, for my inspection and smiled. "I've got steady hands."

In the years since he introduced his son into Israel's blood covenant with the almighty, Lev Leviev has performed more than a thousand ritual circumcisions

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