New York – In the latest chapter of the metzitzah b’peh saga, two mohels who have been linked to cases of neonatal herpes in infants have been identified by the New York City Department of Health, but their names will not be released to the public.
An order issued by the Department of Health banned the two from performing metzitzah b’peh for now, according to The Daily News (http://nydn.us/2oAgwHM). That order will not be made public, said Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, because it would expose the names of both the mohels and several infected babies.
“People are entitled to their privacy,” said Bassett.
Addressing a City Council hearing today, Bassett said that the two men have also been told to undergo testing to determine if they are putting babies at risk when performing metzitzah b’peh, as reported by the New York Post (http://nyp.st/2nkWrF1).
There are currently no laws regulating metzitzah b’peh and the city is counting on the two men to voluntarily comply with the directive issued by the Department of Health.
As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2n7c2Lp), the City Council announced recently that it would consider regulating metzitzah b’peh if City Hall fails to take steps that would prevent infected mohels from performing the generations-old practice as required by a 2015 agreement that lifted regulations on metzitzah b’peh that had been enacted by former mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In response, a group of rabbis representing Vaad L’Mishmeres Habris sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio saying that the city had failed to live up to its part of an agreement negotiated with City Hall regarding metzitzah b’peh, which required the Department of Health to perform DNA testing on babies with neonatal herpes to determine if they had been infected by their mohel or another individual.
Bassett said that she understood the deep religious significance of metzitzah b’peh and reiterated that the best way to prevent the problem is by educating parents. The city provides English, Yiddish and Hebrew materials explaining the health problems that can arise if metzitzah b’peh is performed by someone who is infected with the highly contagious herpes virus.
The mayor expressed his frustration about the situation and said that City Hall will now be pushing a new plan: having parents ask mohels about their health.
“We’re going to do a much more intensive effort to educate parents, particularly mothers, as to the dangers of this practice,” said de Blasio. “And we’re going to say to them it’s important to ask the mohel. If you choose to engage in this practice, that’s your right and we respected religious freedom, but ask the mohel if they are infected with herpes. And if they are, you should find a different mohel. It’s as simple as that.”
But a source in the Jewish community suggested that few parents would be likely to ask a mohel, often a respected rabbi, if he was infected with the virus.
“It’s not a workable solution,” said the source.
A scathing op-ed in the New York Post (http://nyp.st/2nBOZrR) blasted Mayor de Blasio for catering to the Orthodox Jewish vote while putting newborns’ health at risk, suggesting that perhaps the Department of Health should compile a list of mohels who have been cleared to perform metzitzah b’peh and file criminal charges against any others who do so.