Friday, September 14, 2012

First We Take Berlin, Then We Take Manhattan

The New York City Board of Health unanimously passed a regulation on Thursday that will require consent from parents before an infant can have a form of Jewish ritual circumcision, prevalent in parts of the ultra-Orthodox community, in which the circumciser uses his mouth to remove blood from the incision...some panel members said they believed that requiring consent did not go far enough. “It’s crazy that we allow this to go on,” said Dr. Joel A. Forman, a professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Infectious disease experts widely agree that the oral contact, known in Hebrew as metzitzah b’peh, creates a risk of transmission of herpes that can be deadly to infants, because of their underdeveloped immune systems.

With thanks to Leonard Cohen.


This report on a suspected mohel.

And from the NYTimes:

Mr. Cohn, 83, said that he would rather go to jail than comply with the consent requirement. While he acknowledged that there were unqualified circumcisers who work without proper health testing and training, he said he believed that the ritual was completely safe when performed by him or another practitioner certified by an association of circumcisers; he is the chairman of the group.
“If you follow strictly the ritual, there will be no harm to the baby,” he said. A circumcision, he added, “is a joyous occasion — nothing traumatic about it.”
And Benjamin Asher’s father, Isaac Mortob, 27, said his family had sought out Mr. Cohn in part because he did the procedure in the traditional way, including the oral suction. “I don’t want a 99 percent job, I want a 100 percent job,” he said. “I want him” — his firstborn son — “to be fully Jewish.”
But city health officials say the mohel’s safeguards, which include rinsing with Listerine before the procedure, sterilizing tools, scrubbing hands with surgical soap and being tested annually for pathogens, are insufficient.
The main virus that worries the city is oral herpes, which is present in some 70 percent of the city’s adult population and can cause fatal infections in babies. Highly contagious, it is spread through contact with infected saliva, even by sharing drinks or towels.
“There is no safe way to perform oral suction on an open wound in a newborn,” said Dr. Jay K. Varma, the city’s deputy commissioner for disease control. If the measure passes, he said, circumcisers who do not comply could face warning letters or fines.
Ultra-Orthodox leaders plan to sue the city if the regulation is passed, arguing that the measure would constitute an unconstitutional infringement on their religious freedom. Some 200 ultra-Orthodox rabbis published a decree in late August warning adherents that it was forbidden “to participate in the evil plans of the New York City health department,” according to a translation by Yeshiva World News. And a Jewish religious court in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, went further, stating that oral suction was a mandatory part of the procedure that should be promoted.
“There is nothing to worry from metzitzah b’peh,” the judges wrote, according to a translation by the Chabad Lubavitch movement. “To the contrary, it is very beneficial, even according to the doctors.”
But other Jewish leaders disagree.
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik, the president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of conservative rabbis, said he supported the Board of Health’s move to require parental consent. He said that direct suction was not required by Jewish law and that the serious risks of the practice were “inconsistent with the Jewish tradition’s pre-eminent concern with human life and health.”
In 2005, the Rabbinical Council of America, the main union of modern Orthodox rabbis, urged that a sterile glass tube be used for suction, rather than the mohel’s mouth. But the group opposes the city’s effort to regulate the practice; instead it has asked the city to work with Orthodox groups “to voluntarily develop procedures to effectively prevent the unintended spread of infection.”


Unknown said...

The parents standing around the baby as the mohel they are paying or at least called performs the bris seems to me to be consent. So now they need to sign a piece of paper? The lawyers are at it again. Maybe if they serve soda in cups over 16 oz. they can get a twofer and send in the cup and foreskin police.

Alan said...

As we all know, there is just as little justification for this "tradition" as there is for making bar mitzvahs, or wearing fur hats.

the Yiddish-speakers will back down. The first moment there's seen to be a fiscal loss to the Rebbes, they will back down.

It is amazing that Medad carries water for these clowns. At least the wife has the good sense to focus on prayer-sites that have actual justification behind them.