Salzhauer's enigmatic text message arrives late on a Saturday night: "I've got another interesting aspect for your story if you are available Monday morning around 7:30 a.m.," it says. "It's a part of my professional life that no one knows about."

In his early-morning operating room, Salz­hauer is surrounded by rabbis rocking back and forth and mumbling prayers in Hebrew.

Uri, a young man with a goatee, gold chain, and black yarmulke, lies on the operating table. A sheet prevents him from seeing the men hovering over his groin. One of them is Rabbi Yaron Amit, an enormous man with an unruly white beard who, in his apron, looks like a butcher. The rabbi deftly lops off a sizable chunk of Uri's anesthetized manhood and places it on a steel tray. The foreskin will later be packed in a medical tube and taken to Israel to be ritually buried.

Salz­hauer's risqué videos belie his personal life. He has five kids and twice ran for Surfside City Commission.
Giulio Sciorio
Salz­hauer's risqué videos belie his personal life. He has five kids and twice ran for Surfside City Commission.
Salzhauer strikes a faux-gangster pose during his latest video, a Justin Bieber spoof titled "If I Was Your Surgeon."
Courtesy of Dr. Michael Salzhauer
Salzhauer strikes a faux-gangster pose during his latest video, a Justin Bieber spoof titled "If I Was Your Surgeon."

"Mazel tov," Salzhauer says, already stitching up Uri's penis.

That's right: Miami's most notorious plastic surgeon, a man labeled an anti-Semite by his critics, is a devout Jew. And an orthodox one, at that. Under his ever-present surgical cap lies a yarmulke. For Salzhauer, Judaism isn't just compatible with being a plastic surgeon; the two go hand in hand. He believes he has a religious calling to help others feel better about themselves, even if that means boob implants or a butt-lift. He has such faith in his profession, in fact, that he's had cosmetic surgery himself.

Detractors say Salzhauer uses his religion as a shield from criticism. "Anything that plays an ethnic card to drum up business is particularly vulgar, even if someone belongs to that ethnic group," argues Kenneth W. Goodman, director of the University of Miami's Bioethics Program.

Yet it's little wonder that Salzhauer feels inoculated from accusations of anti-Semitism. His family story is a Talmudic tale of exile and suffering. His grandfather, Jacob Koppel, was only 6 years old when World War I broke out. His family fled their town in the Ukraine, only for a Cossack horseman to club Jacob's father to death on the side of the road. Jacob found refuge in Vienna and then Berlin. But in 1933, the 24-year-old was forced to flee again when Adolf Hitler came to power. This time, he and his wife settled in Palestine.

Salzhauer's father, Tzvika, was born two years later in Tel Aviv. He was a clever boy but had no patience for school. Unlike his parents and teachers, he spoke both Yiddish and Hebrew. When he was 16, he ran away from home and joined the newly formed Israeli army. But after Tzvika's cousin was killed during an air force training exercise, the government realized the scrawny tank commander was the only male in his family not murdered in the Holocaust or martyred defending Israel. He was shipped off to New York in 1958.

Tzvika used his military background to begin a demolition business. But clients wouldn't award contracts to a Jew, so he started a printing company. One night while he was eating in an Upper East Side diner, 16-year-old Linda Martin wandered into the deli and took a liking to the Israeli war veteran. They were married a year later and soon moved to the Jewish suburb of Orangeburg near New Jersey.

Michael was born in 1972, during the Cultural Revolution, but it was obvious to his parents that he wasn't destined to be a hippie. The 4-year-old wanted to be a doctor so badly he begged his father for a stethoscope. Michael would fall asleep at night to the sound of Tzvika's beating heart.

"He was Mr. Republican," his older sister Eliana remembers. "He was very interested in money from a young age. He was reading that How to Win Friends and Influence People book at 14."

Michael and his three siblings attended Jewish schools, but their family wasn't very observant. They ate kosher at home but scarfed down whatever they wanted with friends. The Salzhauer kids' bubble of Jewish school, family members, and friends burst only when Michael insisted on attending a public high school so he could swim competitively his freshman year.

"I had a bump on my nose, but it had never bothered me until then," Salzhauer says. "Suddenly, I was picked on for my nose and called names. It was the first time I had ever experienced any real anti-Semitism."

Michael shelved his dreams of Olympic glory as a swimmer, returned to Jewish school, and focused on his grades. But he hated the constant prayers and strict dress code, so he skipped his senior year and enrolled at Rockland County Community College. Ever ambitious — with a 4.0 GPA and a nearly perfect SAT score — he was then accepted to Brooklyn College's seven-year BA/MD program, at only 17 years old.

Like his father, Salzhauer was eating when he met the love of his life. Eva Zion was a beautiful brunet psychology major who sat at his table in the Brooklyn College cafeteria. The two began dating, and when Salzhauer transferred to Washington University in St. Louis, she followed. Their 1995 marriage was announced in the New York Times.

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10 comments
Erik
Erik

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Jack Grimshaw
Jack Grimshaw

What the hell does rhinoplasty or any other surgical procedure have to do with "g-d," as you so strangely phrase it? And what exactly is this "g-d" you speak of? The man in the sky? Some volcano g-d? The Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy? Mohammed? Obi-Wan Kenobi? And who informed you that someone's body belongs to this "g-d"? You're speaking in tongues, pal ...

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Ivy

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Travis McGee

Colorful, unique and talented people with a good heart are what make America interesting and enviable. We will take the good with the bad and make something excellent that others will copy. Is this man all good? No. Is this man all bad? No. But he is DOING SOMETHING and not being suppressed. We will take the good with the bad and celebrate the good. I am happy that he is ours and an excellent surgeon.

STACEYSANDER
STACEYSANDER

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Yakov Hadash

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