The measure passed by a vote of 9-0. The written consent must be obtained from the infant’s parent or guardian, and will obligate parents to acknowledge that the Department of Health recommends against the performance of metzitzah b’peh because of the risks associated with the practice, including the transmission of the herpes simplex virus and other infections.
Since 2004, there have been 11 confirmed cases of the herpes simplex virus in newborn boys, all of which occurred following circumcisions that likely involved direct oral suction, according to the DOH. Two of the infants died. But defenders of the practice remain undeterred by the DOH’s ruling, and say they will ignore the new rule on religious grounds, secure in the knowledge that metzitzah b’peh has been performed “tens of thousands of times a year” throughout the world.
Below video, the debate at NYC board of health on Sept. 13 2012. Video By Stefano Giovannini for VIN News
“This is the government forcing a rabbi practicing a religious ritual to tell his congregants it could hurt their child,” Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, told ABCNews.com. “If, God forbid, there was a danger, we would be the first to stop the practice.”
Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) and New York State Senate candidate Simcha Felder also weighed in on the ruling, saying, “This attack isn’t just on metzitzah b’peh—a tradition practiced by most Orthodox Jews; it is an attack on Judaism as practiced for 3300 years. Telling parents that you require written consent from them before performing religious rites that the mayor finds objectionable thrusts the city deeper into a nanny-ocracy that has dubious implications. . . .The mayor has allowed his personal agenda to impact the lives of these Jewish children forever. This is how he enters the New Jewish Year.”
“After Mayor Bloomberg finishes his third term, he should become the chancellor of Germany since these are the only two places that have a problem with circumcision,” remarked Isaac Abraham, a Jewish community leader in Williamsburg. “The Jewish community-at-large will continue to do what it has done for thousands of years without fear of German law coming to New York,” he added.
The Charedi organization from Williamsburg Hisachdus HaRabunim (Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada) also issued a statement condemning today’s decision, and called the DOH’s decision “an unforgivable affront.”
“The Orthodox Jewish community is outraged by today’s decision of the NYC Board of Health to regulate a sacred, foundational religious practice that has been observed for over 3,000 years,” the statement read. “We believe today’s action, which is based on the thinnest of contested anecdotal evidence, to be plainly unconstitutional and will be aggressively litigating this shocking governmental overreach. . . .The basis of Jewish law, the Torah, holds even a single life above all other concerns. No practice spanning thousands of years, undertaken by thousands annually, would be allowed in Jewish law if it were life-threatening.”
Photos: Stefano Giovannini for VIN News