New NYC Law Requires Orthodox Jews Sign Consent for Circumcision Ritual

Parents who wish to have a metzitzah b’peh circumcision performed, where a rabbi's mouth meets a newborns foreskin wound, must now sign a consent form first.

An ancient circumcision ritual commonplace in parts of New York City's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is under close watch by the city’s health department, concerning a practice the department believes could spread venereal diseases to infants, says the New York Times.

The process, known in Hebrew as metzitzah b’peh, involves the rabbi putting his mouth on the infant's penis, post-circumcision, in order to draw blood away from the wound. The main worry is oral herpes, which 70 percent of the city’s adult population carries.

In fact, according to the health department, between 2000 and 2011, 11 babies contracted herpes as a result of the ritual, and two of them died.

This spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that the procedure was "not safe" and created a risk for transmission of herpes: “There is no safe way to perform oral suction on an open wound in a newborn,” said Dr. Jay K. Varma, the city’s deputy commissioner for disease control.

As a result, Mayor Bloomberg pushed through legislation requiring parents sign a consent form before the procedure is done on their child. And on Thursday, the New York City Board of Health voted to approved the new law.

But the new law is provoking outcries from some in the Orthodox Jewish community who see it as an encroachment on their religious freedom. “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 ABC News.

But city health officials believe that the health precautions for metzitzah b’peh, which include rinsing with Listerine before the procedure, sterilizing tools, scrubbing hands with surgical soap and being tested annually for pathogens, are simply not enough.

And while some in the Orthodox Jewish community see this legislation as an attack, others in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn say they are fine going along with the new law.

“We have no problem with signing it; the mayor felt he was protecting us,” said Rabbi Shea Hecht, chairman of the board of the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education. “It does not hurt anybody, but I’m not so sure it’s helping anybody either, because you sign the consent, and then what? Does the health issue stop?"

According to the Times, the new law would not affect the way most Jewish ritual circumcisions are performed nor would it ban the practice. But circumcisers who do not comply with administering consent forms and getting them signed by parents before the procedure could face warning letters or fines.

“Perhaps what [Bloomberg] should have said is that circumcisers get themselves checked that they don’t have herpes. That would have been a much better law,” said Hecht. “Don’t attack the circumcision, target the circumciser."

nrod September 15, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Religious rite or not, sounds perverted.
honey September 15, 2012 at 02:27 PM
only a freak/pervert could do this to a child. Just an attempt to initiate the child into a perverted lifestyle. Getting them while they are young is not a new idea
tonyo September 15, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Circumcision is genital mutilation pure and simple. Whilst I have huge respect for the Jewish faith as a whole, today it is misguided on what is taught in this respect. The current barbarism stems back to around 150AD when how this act was to be performed changed to become far more radical or damaging. Sadly this has been followed by many medical cultures in English speaking countries, non more so than in the US. Why is one standard required by law in relation to females, ie. no genital mutilation while quite another is tolerated, even misguidedly promoted by groups like the American Academy of Paediatrics. The impact on males and their partners is lifelong, highly detrimental to ever knowing true, normal, sexual pleasure and the bogus arguments in relation to disease control are not supported by objective science. Performing a non essential medical procedure on a minor without a capacity to consent or decline is clearly a breach of their fundamental human rights.
Rood Andersson September 15, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Mutilating an innocent child's body a religious rite? Tradition or not, that's just plain sick. It might mean something if an adult chooses to mutilate his own body in the name of religion, but all a newborn infant knows is pain and suffering. He expresses his outrage in the only way he can, by screaming in pain and going into shock. Why don't the men who believe mutilating the penis is a religious rite by waiting until they are adults ... so they can freely choose? What's the problem. Are they cowards?
Rood Andersson September 15, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Aluxundrina ... a newborn child knows nothing whatever of "religion". Forcing one's beliefs on someone too young to consent is being intolerant of that child's individual integrity, particularly when it requires the mutilation of the infant's body. You can't get much more intolerant.
Dick Scalper September 15, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Someday all those shiny little circumcision clamps & devices will be enshrined in the Museum of Torture. They brand men like a herd of cows. "Neonatal post-traumatic stress disorder" -- the recurrent American nightmare for boys. American men are such wimps to let their sons be subjected to this absurd surgery. If it were women tied down & cut, the Feminists would be howling all over the world. The male genitals are a cheap commodity. There is no argument too absurd for the circumcisers. They insult the appearance of the intact penis, claim that circumcision heals everything from body warts to HIV, and draw an illogical distinction between female & male genitals. Circumcision is the mark of a slave, not a free man. Top Ten Tortures Less Painful Than Circumcision 10. Get waterboarded. 9. Pull out your fingernails. 8. Eat a pile of steaming bear crap. 7. Skin yourself alive. 6. Fall into a vat of molten iron. 5. Get run over by a train. 4. Go through a sausage grinder. 3. Saw off your legs. 2. Poke out your eyes. 1. Go To Hell ~Dick-Scalper
Rood Andersson September 15, 2012 at 09:51 PM
The traditional Jewish method has the mohel shove a long, sharpened fingernail beneath an infant's foreskin to tear it from the glans before he pulls the flesh forward to slice it off with an even sharper knife. After that the mohel will stick the boy's penis in his mouth and suck until the child stops bleeding. If he stops bleeding, anyway. Tradition has it that a third son won't be circumcised if his two older brothers bleed to death.
Real Human September 16, 2012 at 02:22 AM
This is a sick and disgustingly perverted procedure camouflaged as a religious ritual. It doesn't matter whether it's in the name of some sick jackass with an M.D. after his name or a sick religious cult. This isn't a third world country and it is 2012, not 1492! Before they can mutilate another baby, these insane bastards should be castrated and paraded through the streets of NY City.
Real Human September 16, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Patch, thanks for letting the public know that this kind of child molestation/torture is still happening in America.
Gregg September 16, 2012 at 01:05 PM
This is what happens when ANY fundamentalist cult follows a lifestyle laid out 2000 years ago. When will these people wake up, and join the real world? This practice should be banned as torture. Let them get it done when they are adults, at the age of consent, and see how many line up to have part of their penis cut off.
jim September 16, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Do you won't know that Muslims also practice circumcision? So are you all calling Muslims radicals, fundamentalists, extremists and barbaric? If so perhaps I should forward this to my local Al Qaeda branch and ask them for their opinion.
Rood Andersson September 16, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Male (and female) genital mutilation among practitioners of the Muslim faith is an ancient Arabian tribal tradition that long predates the birth of Mohammed. It continues among Muslims as a tribal tradition, only, as nowhere in the Qu'ran is the subject mentiuoned. It may interest Muslims to know that apparently Mohammed never suffered the pains of genital mutilation. According to tradition he was never circumcised.
Janice Hawkins September 16, 2012 at 05:25 PM
First of all until recently all male children of whatever religion were circumcised in New York City. It was considered a sanitary measure for the foreskin to be snipped [not mutilated]. In fact one had to specifically request that the hospital not do or it would be done. Parents make all the decisions for a child and their body until they are of an age to make it themselves. Everything from immunizations to medical care, language and school choices and yes religion are made by parents. Babies have the right to be cared for and protected by their caregivers. Human rights and personal freedom for an individual kick in when that child is the age of consent in that state. My concern is the spread of disease by this custom. Either the rabbis should be tested for disease regularly or they should agree to discontinue the practice. Having the parents sign permission slips as per Bloomberg is just nonsense.
Rood Andersson September 16, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Dear Janice Hawkins: Parental privileges do not apply when such people resort to mutilating another person's body. That holds true whether or not it was ever a tradition to mutilate the body of children. Sanitary? It would be more sanitary to chop off hands and fingers of children, as that is where many diseases are passed from one person to another. "Snipped"? That statement would be funny if it were not so stupid. If children are given the right to make choices for themselves "of an age", why is it not permissible to give them the right to mutilate their body when "of an age"? Why should anyone else have that right? The laws of every State forbid the sexual abuse of any child .... and genital mutilation is an especially egregious example of child sexual abuse. Care and protection of children by anyone does not give that person the right to harm a child by mutilating his or her body. Parents,mohels, and physicians alike are guilty of child sexual abuse whenever they act to mutilate a child's sex organs.
Janice Hawkins September 16, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Wow Rood. Unless we are talking about two different things circumcision is no more mutilation than ears pierced. "Stupid"? Equating genital mutilation with circumstances is stupid. Obviously you have not been, never seen or know anyone in this country who has been circumcized. THEY are not complaining. Secondly Sexual abuse is defined as "the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children." This is not sexual abuse however much we may not like it. But it is exposing children to disease and as such must be dealt with.
Rood Andersson September 16, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Having been on a Maricopa County Grand Jury for four months, I believe I should know child sexual abuse when I see it. One fellow was prosecuted for merely "touching" a fully clothed adolescent boy on the thigh during an innocent game of cards. If merely touching a child can be prosecuted, mutilating that child's genitals sure can be, too. See: www.norm.org/ Go to any of the site's locations and you'll find thousands of men who complain the best way they can ... by restoring their foreskins. See also: http://www.restoringforeskin.org, one of dozens of sites devoted to helping men overcome the limitations of Male Genital Mutilation. At the moment it alone has over 6,000 members. MGM is not surgery, a procedure confined to "the art, practice, or work of treating diseases, injuries, or deformations". Since neither Male and Female Genital Mutilation treat disease, injury, or deformation, the practices are clear examples of Genital Mutilation. Sorry, but mutilating healthy genital tissue of boys and girls are clear examples of sexual child abuse. Do you or do you not advocate the amputation of children's hands and fingers? You can't have it both ways. Otherwise you merely reveal an antipathy and unreasoned prejudice against healthy genital tissue. Think about what you are revealing about yourself, woman. Readers are getting the impression that you have a guilty conscience.
Janice Hawkins September 16, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I worked as a child welfare worker and investigator for over 26 years here in New York City. Your reaction to this discussion concerning a religious tradition, and people and law that you obviously have had little to no contact with speaks volumes about you and your issues man. Can we at least agree that this matter needs to be dealt with and can no longer go on whatever the reason. No guilt here my son is alive and well thanks for asking
Rood Andersson September 16, 2012 at 08:11 PM
So ... you did choose to have your son suffer genital mutiation. i thought so. And, yes, the old, outdated tradition of mutilating the genitals of innocent children does need to end. That we agree on, whoever does the dirty deed: doctors, parents, or mohels. You wish to discuss Jewish history? Say the word. I'm more that eager.
Dutch September 16, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Janice, with all due respect, your comment "circumcision is no more mutilation than ears pierced" is way off base. Piercing ears does not permanently remove what will amount to 12-15 sq. inches of sexually sensitive skin when the baby becomes an adult man. No matter what your personal beliefs are, the fact is that the foreskin is not "dead" skin. It is full of nerves and provides substantial sensation to the man. Removing it from a baby deprives that individual from experiencing what God/nature/evolution intended. While I personally don't consider circumcision as sexual abuse, I do consider it morally wrong to be done to an individual who cannot consent and who will have to live with the results for the rest of his life. In case you didn't know, approximately 80% of all men on earth are not circumcised, and several nations have attempted to ban circumcision because they see it as a violation of human rights. Every individual -- male and female -- has an innate right to the body they were born with. Nobody should have the right to alter someone else's body without indicated medical need.
Janice Hawkins September 16, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Clearly we agree on the one point and not on others and continuing to badger each other serves no purpose. New point - how do you think this practice should be stopped?
Clark September 16, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Actually if you copy and watch this link it will tell you that there is no reason for the Jewish community to keep doing this. Most of this is in another language but the main speaker is in English . His research says that as long as The Mother is Jewish circumcision is not needed. Ok now Im not Jewish But I can Honestly say it was done to me and I hate that it was If my parents or The SOB that did this to me were still alive I would sue sue sue them! Trust me there is alot of Men waking up and there going to be alot more lawsuits over it. And on a final note they use to have public hangings, public stonings, Witch burnings, alter sacrifices,and the list goes on it was a brutal and barbaric and we knew better and grew this is right there with it just because we always have DOSE NOT mean we should keep doing it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2bn-_-jbeo&list=FLSk6pNa1xPIk8ZOnpUpGDcQ&index=1&feature=plpp_video
Janice Hawkins September 16, 2012 at 08:39 PM
I don't believe it is mandatory or believed to be a health issue as it was in the '70's for babies. If was felt that if a baby's foreskin [not a child or man] was too tight to push back it was better to circumcise. I am well aware that genital mutilation is a horrible thing having met women who are victims of clitorectimies. My contention is actually about opening the door for outside folks to decide for you what is good/or not good for a newborn. And for the record I agree that people will bring lawsuits that will be successful as they prove that protracted injury has been done. But today here and now I am concerned with ow change can be initiated and enforced. That particular community is well know for following their own ways and defying change. Whether to stop or not is a matter of convincing the practitioners to stop. There is currently no law here that says they have to.
Rood Andersson September 16, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Federal Law, in a bill shepherded through Congress years ago by Representative Pat Schroeder, forbids the Genital Mutilation of infant and adolescent females. According to the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, " .... No State shall ... deny to ANY person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." All anyone asks is just that: EQUAL PROTECTION of the LAWS.
Janice Hawkins September 17, 2012 at 12:22 AM
The bill Representative Patricia Schroeder introduced in 1995 was passed but it speaks specifically to female circumcision. It will have to be amended to include male victims. However the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the child (1989) to which the United States agreed speaks to this directly Article 14 1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. 3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. Article 24 1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health ... 3. States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children. Citation: U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). As you said all anyone asks is just that: EQUAL PROTECTION of the LAWS. Thank you for helping me understand the depths of the problem and people's feelings about it.
Paul Treadway September 17, 2012 at 01:05 PM
To all the above posters: I suggest you all read the first comment posted above. I wrote it. i focused on the specific act mentioned in the above article namely an a person placing their mouth on a child's penis. The above extended postings got away from the main subject--that is the oral molestation of children. None of the posters focused on that! Why? The conversation got side-tracked to circumcision--which is a separate but related issue. I would hope we all are on the same page that oral sex on a child's penis is CRIMINAL. It's time for all District Attorneys to start a criminal probe of this matter --OF ORAL SEX ON A CHILD. ANY TAKERS?
John Walker September 17, 2012 at 08:59 PM
What about the rights of the man that this child will become? Does he want this to happen to his most private part of his body. Just because he is a child he still has the rights as any other person in our country. Let him decide. Wait until he is of age of consent!! What about his religious freedom? Many people born Jewish later chose a different religion or non at all. He has rights too!!!!!!!
tara tumminello September 19, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Dont you folks have anything better to do? Go read a book or something.
Dick Scalper September 20, 2012 at 07:49 PM
This video will shock a mother's conscience to the core. Torture By Another Name: "Circumcision" http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=683_1347997320
Rood Andersson October 14, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Sure, Tara. Here are a couple of books I'd recommend. They tell the truth about Male Genital Mutilation. 1. Marked In Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America. Leonard B. Glick 2. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. John Colapinto 3. Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery. David L. Gollaher 4. A "Surgical" Temptation: The Demonization of the Foreskin & The Rise of Circumcision in Britain. Robert Darby 5. Circumcision: What It Does. Billy Ray Boyd 6. What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You Abour Circumcision. Paul M. Fleiss
Rood Andersson October 14, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Do we understand you to mean that assaulting and physically mutilating an infant's penis is acceptable behaviour as long as the person doing the assault doesn't use his mouth, but only scissors and a sharp knife? Paul. Really now. Just touching a child's penis is considered criminal behaviour by every Criminal Code in every State.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something