Oct 24, 2012
Lawsuit Unites Jewish Groups

Activists representing Satmar, Chabad and Agudah held an urgent press conference this week with the major frum media outlets.

By COLlive reporter

A press conference was held this week at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas in Brooklyn where the urgency of the subject matter was perhaps more emphasized by the ones who participated than by what they said.

Lined up were a rare and wide-ranging representation of Agudath Israel of America, Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada (Satmar) and the Lubavitch-affiliated International Bris Association.

"Today is historic, and not in a good way," attorney Yerachmiel Simins told the major frum news outlets that were invited in addition to COLlive.com - Mishpacha, Hamodia, Yated, Der Blatt, Der Yid, Chabad.org, Yeshiva World News, VIN and Kol Mevaser.

"It is historic because Satmar, Agudah and Lubavitch have joined hands to fight this," he said in reference to a lawsuit filed against New York City Department of Health (DOH) to stop its regulations on the Jewish tradition of performing circumcision on an 8-day-old.

As reported on COLlive.com, the suit argues that the DOH is attempting to discourage the practice known as metzitzah b'peh (MBP) by requiring mohelim to distribute a form stating that MBP can lead to serious health risks.

That regulation violates both the rights to free speech and freedom of religion, argue the three organizations who filed the suit with plaintiffs Rabbi Samuel Blum, Rabbi Aharon Leiman and Rabbi Shloime Eichenstein.

Simins, who was involved in the 2006 Circumcision Protocol with the NY State Health Department, said "this also marks the first only frum media press conference," noting that the Jewish media is stronger now than ever, and can help in the fight against these regulations.

"This lawsuit is an extraordinary step after other measures were taken but did not help in stopping these new regulations," he said, and accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg of helping spread misinformation about the long-held Jewish practice.

Simins said this regulation is but the first step in the Mayor's plan to stop metzitzah B'peh altogether, and has had a vastly negative impact on the custom already.

"The intention of the mayor is to stop metzitzah b'peh in any way he can. Parents are deciding not to go with a mohel [for the bris] because parents think 'mohels kill babies,'" he said. "Painful myths have arisen from these regulations, that we don't care about our children in order to protect our customs. It goes without saying that we care about each of our children."

The lawsuit is supported by affidavits from experts in infectious diseases, epidemiology and statistical analysis that question the assessment and methodology of the DOH in forming its opinion about the safety of MBP.

"We need to get this out to the public and dispel the myths that are out there," said Rabbi Levi Heber, a Crown Heights resident and head of the Bris Association. "What they are demanding of us would be an infringement on Jewish practice of yiddishkeit, not just bris milah."

The suit argues that "the government cannot compel the transmission of messages that the speaker does not want to express—especially when the speaker is operating in an area of heightened First Amendment protection, such as a religious ritual."

Dr. Daniel S. Berman, an adult infectious diseases specialist who has been tirelessly fighting the Department of Health and the Medical community on this issue for 7 years, questioned the validity and motivations of opinions by many in the medical community who claim metzitzah b'peh is dangerous.

He suggests anti-religious bias as a significant factor in their conclusions and in the actions of the DOH.

Joining his assertion that the DOH's data is flawed was Dr. Brenda Breuer, an epidemiologist at Beth Israel Medical Center, who said "the report purported to identify 5 cases over nearly 6 years of infants who were suspected to have undergone mbp and later developed HSV infection."

Breuer said the reports used were outdated and used inaccurate data, and that "they used the wrong formula. The formula they used unjustifiably increased the results. Had they used the correct formula, the results may not have reflected that. And If only one of the five cases had been wrong, then even their own formula would not have supported the findings."

The amendment from the Board of Health states "to require written consent from a parent or legal guardian when direct oral suction will be performed during his or her son's circumcision." The amendment also states that the Mohel must inform the parents that "the Department advises against direct oral suction because of certain risks associated with the practice, including infection with herpes."

The plaintiffs say the amendment violates freedom of speech because it forces the mohel to declare something which they completely disagree with.

Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger, Chairman of the Board of Agudath Israel, stated, "You may ask, 'what's the big deal? All they are asking for is a consent form.' The problem is that it not only intrudes on our religious practice, but it intrudes on our religious decision making. Already it has had a damaging impact."


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Opinions and Comments
1
nice!
The rebbe's amazing frindship with the Satmer rebbe R' Y Yoel will stay unified by his chasidim with lubavitch forever
Nothig will brake us in to two as we contune to lern good thinngs from ea h other
(10/25/2012 3:41:20 AM)
2
January 1, 2014
There will be a new mayor and IY"H the attack on Judaism will end.
(10/25/2012 7:57:43 AM)
3
parent
Why doesn't Norman Siegel take on THIS case?
(10/25/2012 8:17:01 AM)
4
Yossi
That's great! Jews coming together to fight a policy enacted after 7 BABIES got meningitis from an unscrupulous mohel and a group of rabbis who covered things up for him... That's great that Jews are able to come together like this...
(10/25/2012 8:48:34 AM)
5
to 4
get your facts straight.
(10/25/2012 9:57:46 AM)
6
Former Torah Vodaas Talmid
This is embarrasing. The yeshiva should not be involved in this at all. There is clearly a potential for transmission of HSV and other dangereous pathogens as well. The potential is either from Mohel to infant or from infant to mohel and then to subsequent infants. You can debate the frequency of such transmission and question the studies that indicated such transmission did occur, but you can not say there is absoultely no risk. Ignoring modern science and standards of hygiene and pretending that its rules do not apply to us, makes us look like backwards, uneducated,uninformed, dummies. This whole mess could have been avoided if the three groups, Satmer,Chabad,and Aguda, had gotten together when this problem first surfaced and addressed it with honesty. Instead they chose to bash Rabbi Tendler and make him a scapegoat for sounding the alarm of a real problem.
(10/25/2012 12:43:51 PM)
7
# 4 Yossi
Where exactly did you get your info from? Read established and documented material and then maybe you can have an unbiased opinion. Right now you sound a little bit too much like our expert Mayor on this topic. Hatzlocha!
(10/25/2012 1:46:52 PM)
8
it's sad that there are self hating jews like 4 and 6 who just regurgitate lies from the media
but the truth is that the Rebbe never said that metzitzah must be done b'peh
(10/25/2012 2:49:40 PM)
9
Yossy H
We created this monster called Bloomberg and even supported him while he change the rules so that he can be Mayor a third term. Remember the day's when the whole community jump at the chance to take a picture with this man.

Well he has since then. 1) pushed strongly for same gender marriage. 2) Ignored are communities cry while crime skyrocketed. 3) And now he's moved on to this new law.

The only way to stop this trend is by becoming a powerful voting block. The courts can only help to an extent.
(10/25/2012 3:17:22 PM)
10
mesiras nefesh is real today
2250 years ago, Antiochus IV Epiphanes banned bris milah (circumcision)! Jewish woman circumcised their children and jumped off the wall of Jerusalem, al kiddush hashem!

Less then 80 years ago, when Jewish woman realized that what they thought was a shower, was actually zyklon B gas, they took pieces of glass and circumcised their children seconds before death!

now Germany and new York, democracies, are banning circumcision (or parts of it)
Our 3500 year old tradition, which many tried to stop,!

Even the least observant Jew, who does not keep kosher or shabbat, will perform circumcision!
quit while your ahead, we will jump off roofs before we stop circumcision!
(10/25/2012 7:22:07 PM)
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