Several years ago Orthodox Jews in New York city kicked off when an attempt was made to regulate a ‘sacred’ ritual – metzitzah b’peh – that involved mohels (circumcisers) sucking the penises of newly-mutilated infant boys.
A parental consent form was introduced after a number of babies were infected with herpes, but rabbis screamed that this violated their religious freedom, and launched a lawsuit against the administration, which quickly backed down. In 2015, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the consent form was to be scrapped – and Jewish religious leaders were cock-a-hoop.
Crowed prominent Brooklyn Rabbi David Niederman, whose Central Rabbinical Congress pressed the lawsuit:
I’m thankful to Mayor de Blasio and his entire administration …. for doing what it is right, eliminating this consent form, which was intrusive and violated our freedom of religion and speech. It’s a victory for religious freedom and a victory for public policy.
The Mayor’s office said in a statement:
While the de Blasio Administration continues to believe that MBP carries with it health risks, given the sacred nature of this ritual to the community, the administration is pursuing a policy centered around education of health risks by the health care community and respect for traditional practices by the religious community.
Increasing trust and communication between the City and this community is critical to achieve the Administration’s ultimate goal of ensuring the health and safety of every child, and this new policy seeks to establish a relationship based on engagement and mutual respect.
Not surprisingly, this new approach has done little to protect infant boys.
It’s now being reported that there have been six reported cases of infant herpes linked to metzitzah b’peh circumcisions in the three years since the city eased rules – the most recent being the case of a boy who was admitted
to hospital with a rash and blisters on his genitals, buttocks, inner thigh and ankle after being circumcised when he was eight days old.
De Blasio confirmed the incident on Wednesday.
We’re right now in the process of identifying the mohel and we expect full cooperation from the community. We literally heard about this case at some point in the afternoon yesterday [Tuesday].
Two similar cases were reported in 2016 and three in 2015, the year that the city’s Board of Health — under de Blasio’s direction — voted to ease regulations on the oral post-circumcision practices.
Under Mayor Bloomberg administration, Jewish parents were required to sign a consent form before the controversial ritual, which has been linked to two deaths and two cases of brain damage since 2000.
In 2015, the city’s Health Department took a new tack, distributing pamphlets and posters warning of the procedure’s risks to doctors and hospitals serving Orthodox families.
Health officials said in Wednesday’s alert.
Despite these efforts, parents of case-patients infected have not reported seeing the pamphlet or poster.
There have been a total of 18 cases of infant herpes linked to ritual circumcisions since 2006, when health providers were first mandated to report infections.
In 2012 it was reported that parents in Israel were increasingly choosing not to have their sons circumcised.
Dr Avshalom Zoossmann-Diskin, one of the most vociferous objectors in Israel to circumcision and the founder of Ben Shalem – an organisation which fights circumcision – says that in his many years of anti-circumcision activism he has encountered only one harsh response.
That was in 1999, in connection with a petition he submitted to the High Court of Justice against circumcision on the grounds that it violates the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom, the Children’s Charter of Rights and criminal law. After the petition was rejected, the Interior Minister at the time, Eliahu Suissa ?(Shas?) stated that ‘the petitioner should be thrown out the window’.