Sunday, October 28, 2012
Rabbis Delay NYC's Metzitzah B'Peh Regulations - Meanwhile, in Israel...
After looking the other way for the longest time, the New York City Health Department finally decided to do something to address the issue of orthodox mohels spreading herpes through the practice of oral suction after ritual circumcision, also known as "metzitzah b'peh."
Or, at least, do something to look busy.
What did the New York City Health Department do to protect further boys from being infected?
They issued a mandate that would require parents to sign a consent form before allowing a mohel to perform metztizah b’peh on their sons.
According to Deputy Commissioner Jay K. Varma, the health commission would impose penalties at its own discretion. They would respond to public complaints and investigate the claims, (Because this has happened in the past? Do you seriously need a special law that requires parents to sign a waiver to do this?) and that repercussions could range from a phone call or a formal warning letter, to fines of up to $2,000 for each violation. (Again, when has this happened, and shouldn't this be standard procedure for ANY time a child is being put in danger? What happened in 2006 when Thomas Frieden was Health Commissioner?)
The mandate is basically worthless; there is no actual ban or regulation of metzitzah b'peh, and mohels would face no penalties whatsoever if the waivers were not signed. (I ask, what ultra-orthodox Jewish parent doesn't know the health implications of what is probably their most cherished religious tradition?)
But despite the new mandate being essentially impotent, ultra-orthodox rabbis were intolerant of what they see as an "unconstitutional, shocking governmental overreach." According to Rabbi William Handler, leader of Traditional Bris Milah, a self-proclaimed group formed to “protect Jewish ritual circumcision,” this mandate is "the first step in completely taking away traditional bris milah from the Jewish people in New York City.”
To prevent this mandate from taking effect, several rabbis and Jewish organizations, including Agudath Israel of America and the International Bris Association, filed a lawsuit at the Federal District Court in Manhattan. They accuse mayor Bloomberg of "blood libel," and the New York City Health Department of "trying to enforce erroneous opinions on the people of New York City." They claim the city lacks “any definitive proof” that metzitzah b’peh “poses health risks of any kind," despite the fact that the CDC found a total of 11 baby Jewish boys in NYC were infected with herpes.
Well, as they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it looks like the very vocal rabbis have gotten their wish.
New York City agreed to a brief stay in the enforcement of the above mandate, so that the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit in Manhattan can submit a motion for a preliminary injunction.