Mar 18, 2017
Bris Experts Respond to De Blasio
Photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office

3 rabbis called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to abide by their agreement over Bris Milah; Health Department refused to commit.

By COLlive reporter

Three prominent rabbinical figures have written New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to stress their communities' continued readiness to abide by the agreement reached with him in 2015 on performing Bris Milah.

These rabbis who have extensive experience with Jewish circumcision and the ritual known as metzitza b'peh ("MBP"), or oral suction, say they are committed to reduce the risk of -and accurately identify the source of- herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) infection of newborns.

Rabbi Shraga Feivel Cohen, Rabbi Abraham S. Blum and Rabbi Isaac Eichenstein, represent the Vaad L'mishmeres Ha'bris, a broad-based rabbinical group that has been involved in the ongoing dialogue regarding MBP.

They stated that they fully share the goal of doing everything possible to safeguard the health and wellbeing of children, while at the same time respecting the religious freedom of those for whom the millennia-old practice of mbp is an essential component of their sacred religious tradition. The two goals, they insist, are entirely compatible.

The 2015 agreement, they reminded the mayor, established a clear protocol in cases of HSV-1 infection of an infant. HSV-1 is the common "cold sore" virus that causes harmless lesions in adults but can be life-threatening to a newborn - although cases of infant infection from circumcision are extremely rare, and although the prognosis in the rare cases of infection is greatly improved with early diagnosis and treatment.

The investigative protocol includes immediate testing of the mohel, or ritual circumciser, for presence of HSV-1 antibodies, which would indicate a previous or current infection with the virus, and then DNA testing to ascertain if the source of the infection was in fact the mohel. And if it was, the mohel would desist from practicing mbp.

Unfortunately, the rabbis note, when they endeavored to follow up on implementation of the protocols agreement, they were informed that the City Health Department refused to commit to terms of the agreement. Several subsequent attempts were made to revive the agreement, but the Health Department refused to abide by its terms.

The DNA testing, the rabbis explain, is vital, as there have been clear cases where a mohel was suspected of being the source of a baby's infection but where such testing showed conclusively that the virus had been transmitted by someone else. Accurately confirming the source of the infection is imperative - whether it be the mohel, a parent or another caregiver - in order to prevent subsequent transmission of such infections.

The letter decries a recent Health Department alert implying that six mohelim associated with cases of infant herpes infections were the source of the infections, although no DNA testing was done, and none offered by the department.

The rabbis end their letter with an urgent request that the protocol agreed upon two years ago finally be implemented, and that they and their communities look forward to working with City Hall to "bring to fruition our historic agreement that protect[s] both religious freedom and the health of our precious children."

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Opinions and Comments
Just asking
I never heard of any of these three rabbis. Are they from new york? Which communities do they represent?
(3/18/2017 5:54:44 PM)
A modern libel
Literally a modern blood libel, except this times it's about Jewish blood - Dam milah.

Thanks for all the Mohalim that are fighting this war.
(3/18/2017 5:55:28 PM)
need pr
as we learned in the case of rubashkin. we need good pr people to get out the truth.
(3/18/2017 7:48:18 PM)
To 2
by saying what you said you so diminish what blood libels actually were. Here the health dep is looking out for the safety of Jewish babies where blood libels were designed to kill jews.
(3/18/2017 9:15:30 PM)
To #4
Metzitzah b'peh is VERY commonly brought as a "proof" that Jews lust after blood. It is directly tied into the history of blood libels, and many internet-based anti-Jewish groups are THRILLED that NYC is fighting the "bloodthirsty" Jews. The two ideas are very much, l'tzarateinu, related.
(3/19/2017 1:40:16 AM)
test all mohelim
Why not test all mohelim and see if they are + for HSV. If they are postiive, to stay on prophylactic medication. If negative, they should be routinely tested, may be every month.
This should be preventative. This would cut down on the risk, it would not eliminate it but would decrease the risk.
Parents should insist on knowing the status of the mohel, and date of last test. There could be an argument for every mohel to be on the medication. Little to no risk to the mohel, and preventative to the baby.
(3/19/2017 6:11:55 AM)
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