Thursday, March 8, 2012

Circumcision Indicted in Yet Another Death: Rabbis and Mohels are "Upset"

A two-week old baby boy died in a Brooklyn hospital, his official cause of death pronounced as "disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction."

The Jewish tradition of circumcision, particularly an obscure tradition practiced by only the most ultra-orthodox Jews, is to blame. The tradition in question, known in Hebrew as "metzitzah b'peh", involves the ritual circumciser putting his mouth on the wounded genitals of a newly circumcised Jewish baby boy to suck blood from it.

 Mohel Performing Metzitzah B'Peh on Baby

The cause of death clearly indicts the tradition in question, but this finding has made rabbis and mohels that perform it, according to KTLA, "upset."

According to one mohel Philip Sherman (who also happens to toot his own horn in New York, and LOUDLY), "Across the board, the infection rate for circumcisions is less than one half of one percent." Where does he get these figures? Who is taking count?

"This is part of the anti-religious, anti-circumcision trend,"
Sherman blasts.

This could be it.


Or maybe, just MAYBE it might have just a tiny, teensy-weensy bit to do with the rights of the children involved?

You know, some of whom actually lose more than just their foreskin, if not DIE???

Mohels in Denial
In my encounters on the internet, I often hear people boast about how mishaps never happen with Jewish mohels. Jewish mohels, some advocates argue, are the most qualified people to be performing circumcisions, because they "do this for a living."

Strangely enough, when mishaps like glans ablations (in recent years there have been a few law suits involving glans ablations at the hands of mohels) or even DEATHS happen, the mohel, nor the circumcision are EVER to blame. There's always something wrong with the child, or some outside influence was to blame. There was something wrong with the clamp. The child had a bad heart. He was struck by lighting. Whatever it takes to draw attention away from the fact that the child was doing perfectly well prior to the circumcision.

Defends circumciser Sherman: "The baby could have gotten herpes from a relative or someone in the Hospital, or many other people... You can't say for sure it was the circumcision."

Or the baby might have gotten it directly from the mohel who may have carried the virus?

But sources won't say. At least two sources say that the mohel in question cannot be identified. (Here and here.)

Why not find the mohel and test him for herpes?

We've Seen This Before
This wouldn't be the first time that a child has died as a result of contracting herpes from the mohel through the oral suction ritual. In 2005, Yitzchok Fischer of New York was found to have infected three newborns with herpes via metzitzah b'peh, one of whom died. As in this current case, rabbis and mohels raised a ruckus, and Fischer was basically pardoned by Health Commissioner of the day, Thomas R. Frieden. No further action was to be done regarding getting Orthodox leaders to abandon metzitzah b'peh. Frieden's open letter to the Jewish community can be read here.

Who is this mystery mohel? Could it be the self-same Yitzchok Fischer and his name is shamelessly being withheld to protect his identity?

Why is it that parents go to jail if they try to circumcise their own children, but when a mohel kills a child, rabbis and mohels get "upset" and they automatically get a get-out-of-jail-free card? Is it because doing something about stopping further child endangerment is considered "anti-Semitic" when the perpetrators are Jewish?

"Across the board, the infection rate for circumcisions is less than one half of one percent," argues Philip Sherman. But is this any real justification?

There is a risk for infection, period. There are other risks too, such as partial or full ablation, and even death, as we see here. Because the child is healthy and not in need of any surgical intervention, how is anything above ZERO conscionable?

This is absolutely revolting. If the sex of the baby were female, the most devout imam would be arrested and jailed, and it wouldn't matter if it made other imams or Muslim leaders "upset."

It is absolutely despicable, absolutely disgusting that anybody would ever seek to justify this "tradition." This so-called "tradition" has already produced two reported deaths (and possibly more that have gone unreported), and religious leaders get "upset" that anyone dare call it out?

Can't we just call this "tradition" what it is?

Glorified sado-masochistic child fellatio?

Let It Be Clear
Circumcision carries risks, including infection, partial or full ablation, and even death. The risks are present whether it be carried out by a secular non-Jewish doctor or a mohel. Because it is performed on children who are healthy and not in need of any surgical intervention, the risks are unconscionable.

How many deaths and circumcision botches will it take for people to wake up?

What I've expressed in this blog is my own individual opinion, and it does not necessarily reflect the view of all intactivists. Please do not confuse my disdain for the forced circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors with a hate for Jews. The overwhelming majority of circumcisions in this country are secular, non-Jewish circumcisions that happen at hospitals. I oppose the forced circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors whether it be carried out by mohels or by secular doctors. Genital mutilation, whither it be wrapped in culture, religion or “research” is, in the end, still genital mutilation. ~Joseph4GI


  1. I hear that when others bring up metzitzah b'peh, Jewish often people deny it even exists left and right, accusing those who dare bring it up of "anti-Semitism" and "blood-libel."

    Well, it's documented in books and it's all over the news.

    They can deny no longer...

  2. Thanks for this informative post.

    I still believe that, however upsetting this ritual may be, the intactivist community should not focus too heavily on circumcisions of this particular type. It would only contribute to the erroneous attitude that circumcision is unproblematic as long as the operation is done under sterile conditions.

    In France, the act of sucking the blood from the circumcised penis was banned in 1854; see

    It would be interesting to know whether or not this ban has been used by Jewish scholars as "evidence" of anti-Semitism in nineteenth-century France.

  3. There's no doubt about it. I've nothing personal against Jews per se, but it seems whenever they want to silence criticism they have to pull out the anti-Semite card and invoke the holocaust, don't they....

    Regarding bringing attention to Metzitzah B'Peh, I think attention should be brought to every aspect of circumcision, and this is just one of them.

    There are a lot of erroneous attitudes that, when one steps back, are really just self-serving special pleading.

    Defenders of male circumcision always make little covert contracts that "circumcision is unproblematic if (insert your alibi here)."

    In this case you bring up "sterile conditions." But female circumcision can and is also executed in "sterile conditions," but it still manages to be "much worse because... (more excuses here that only apply to male circumcision)."

    Circumcision is "unproblematic" because "little boys can't remember and older girls remember it the rest of their lives." But baby girls in South East Asia can't remember their sunat, and older boys in the Philippines and the Middle East will most definitely remember their circumcisions.

    Then it's about the "potential medical benefits." But no number of "benefits" would ever legitimize female circumcision in any way shape or form.

    The list will not end.

    In the end, any way you slice it, it's genital mutilation. Notice the new part of my blog banner.

    Genital mutilation, whether it be wrapped in culture, religion or "research," is still genital mutilation.

  4. I am not a scholar, but I cannot help noticing that, according to some scholars, anti-Semites tend to be fierce opponents of circumcision. Robin Judd (Contested Rituals [Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2007], p. 124), commenting on pre-war Germany, says:

    "Antisemitic depictions of both rites (that is, circumcision and kosher butchering) materialized in joke books, novels, cartoons, medical treatises, and pamphlets. Participants drew from antisemitic rhetoric, and antisemitic organizations and individuals frequently participated in the debates..."

    Apparently, examples do exist that testify to this. Nevertheless, my impression is that, as a general rule, racists and anti-Semites are not particularly concerned with circumcision. A quick search on Google Books reveals that circumcision is not mentioned even once in Hitler's autobiography, Mein Kampf. Psychologist Kevin B. MacDonald should probably be seen as a modern proponent of anti-Semitism. As can be seen from his books, available at most university libraries, he has no interest whatever in discussing circumcision. The same holds for David Irving, a "revisionist."

    The suggestion that most intactivists are motivated by anti-Semitism is a gross exaggeration and unsupported by evidence.

  5. I see this as nothing more than a cheap and easy way to stifle debate.

    The Japanese use it too whenever whaling is questioned. Whaling proponents in Japan have used, and continue to use accusations of "racism" to defend their practices, which, strangely enough, is backed by "research." (Guess who wrote the research?)

    The anti-Semite card depends on the assumption that circumcision is exclusive to Jews. It ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of circumcisions that go on in the US are gentile, secular circumcisions that happen at hospitals. It ignores the fact that intactivists oppose all circumcision, and attack it at every front, not just the "religious tradition" side.

    If being against the forced genital mutilation of boys makes me "anti-Semite," then being against the forced genital mutilation of girls must make me anti-Malaysian, or anti-Indonesian, or anti-Bruneian etc...

    Quite ridiculous.