PROMISE MADE, PROMISE KEPT: NYC Mayor de Blasio Says No More Metzitzah B’peh Consent Form [UPDATED 7:58PM]

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Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, which came into power a year ago with a promise to reconsider an existing regulation on Metzitzah B’peh, has now fulfilled that promise.

Mayor de Blasio said he reached the new arrangement after long negotiations with rabbinical leaders. Under the new policy, the city will engage local health care providers to educate the Jewish community about the risk of a cold sore, caused by the herpes simplex one virus, causing a herpes infection of the child’s genitals.

“While the de Blasio Administration continues to believe that MBP carries with it health risks, given the sacred nature of this ritual to the community, the administration is pursuing a policy centered around education of health risks by the health care community and respect for traditional practices by the religious community,” Mr. de Blasio’s office said in a statement.

“Increasing trust and communication between the City and this community is critical to achieve the Administration’s ultimate goal of ensuring the health and safety of every child, and this new policy seeks to establish a relationship based on engagement and mutual respect.”

A 2012 report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against the practice, saying it increases the risk of herpes infection in baby boys by 3.4 times that of other male newborns.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America told YWN “The Bloomberg Administration’s regulation of metzitzah b’peh represented the first and only time in the history of the United States that government has sought to regulate an aspect of bris milah. Our Gedolei Yisroel felt that this was intolerable, and could lead to other governmental incursions on bris milah, and so instructed us to mount a legal challenge against the regulation. It is to Mayor de Blasio’s eternal credit that he recognized how profoundly offensive the regulation was to our community, and worked with us to undo the terrible precedent his predecessor had established.”

Rabbi David Niederman, President United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn told YWN:

“I’m thankful to Mayor de Blasio and his entire administration, specifically Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, the Mayor’s senior aide Avi Fink and the Department of Health, for doing what it is right, eliminating this Consent Form, which was intrusive and violated our freedom of religion and speech,” said Rabbi David Niederman.

“From day one, Mayor de Blasio showed an eagerness to work with all communities towards fair policies that will deliver the best results for the entire city. Today’s action is a result of that noble vision and hard work. We are profoundly thankful to the mayor for that, and we are thanking Hashem that our religious freedom prevailed. Today’s action rebuilds the trust necessary to work together for the safety of all. It’s a victory for religious freedom and a victory for public policy.”

NYC Councilman David Greenfield told YWN, “I applaud the administration for agreeing to respect the religious freedoms of all New York’s communities. Separation of church and state is a two-way street. It is significant that the administration is agreeing to do away with ineffective measures put in place by Mayor Bloomberg, and instead embraced an informational campaign that has proven effective in other parts of the country. This is a big victory for our community. ”

(Chaim Shaprio – YWN)




6 COMMENTS

  1. So now they will check to see how the kid REALLY REALLY REALLY got the virus and not autocratically assume (and we know what happens when you assume!) it was by the bris?!?!

    Call it what you want, but this was a REGULATION against part of milah. Unfortunately, too many “jews” were okay with govt intervention into bris milah because of their MBP minhag. They were 10000% wrong because today its milah, tomorrow its shchita (that’s today already with the peta mamzayrim!) the next day its something else and when they wake up, religous freedom is denied..

  2. Commentors :Is There substance to this article in The jewish [sic] week?

    The de Blasio administration and a coalition of rabbinical leaders have seemingly met in the middle over the controversial circumcision ritual of metzitzah b’peh.

    Each side has made concessions in the agreement, reached Tuesday, with the city dropping the parental consent form requirement and rabbinical leaders agreeing to ask mohels suspected of infecting infants with herpes following the ritual to undergo DNA testing that could lead to them being banned for life from the practice.

    The practice, known as MbP, has led to the deaths of two infants, and brain damage in two others, after they contracted neonatal herpes from a mohel who performed the procedure, according to city health officials. While charedi leaders say the procedure is basically safe, the Centers for Disease Control has declared the practice dangerous.

    MbP is favored by more than 100,000 chasidic and black hat Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn; for them, a circumcision is not considered kosher under Jewish law unless MbP is performed.
    “This is a community that profoundly believes that this is the most important ritual in their religion,” a city official said during a conference call with reporters.
    [ED:!?!?!]

    Banning the practice outright, she said, would only make things worse.

    “By banning it, by antagonizing the community we will get absolutely nowhere,” she said. “It will go underground.”

    In the ritual, a mohel sucks on a newborn’s penis to staunch the flow of blood, a practice that can lead to brain damage or death if the mohel gives the baby the herpes virus during the procedure.

    Under the agreement, if an infant begins showing symptoms of herpes after an MbP procedure, rabbinical leaders will help the health department identify which mohel performed the bris and ask him to be tested for the virus.

    If he tests positive, the city will use DNA testing to determine if it was the mohel who passed on the virus or if the baby got it from someone else. If the mohel is found to be the culprit, he will be banned for life from performing MbP by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The rabbinical coalition has agreed to help enforce the ban.

    The rabbinical coalition has also agreed to tell mohels to “continue to respect the wishes” of parents who do not want MBP performed on their sons and to “engage in campaign to have every mohel who performs a circumcision or MbP take steps to lessen the risk of transmission of HSV-1.”

    When asked what those steps would be and whether there was any evidence that they are effective, city officials said that question needed to be answered by the rabbinical coalition.

    In place of the consent forms, the administration will ask obstetricians, pediatricians and hospitals to give out information about MBP’s risks and contact information for the health department should they wish to get more information.

    “The prior agreement relied on the community to provide information on the health risks of MbP,” an administration official said in an email to The Jewish Week. “The [charedi] community does not agree that there are health risks associated with MbP, which is why under the new agreement, parents will be educated on the risks by health care providers.”

    The penalty for mohels who defy the ban hasn’t changed. If a banned mohel is discovered to have since performed the procedure at least twice, he will be fined.

    City officials said they haven’t found either the fines or the consent forms to be effective. They hope the agreement will cause community leaders to pressure mohels to stop performing MBP themselves, which, they said, would be much more effective than anything the city could do.

    “We think that there are ways that the community leaders can be more effective in enforcing that ban than we can, given that a financial disincentive may not be enough to convince a mohel he should stop doing it — seeing as he has to be caught twice for it to matter,” an administration official said during the call.

    “But the community, through social and religious pressure from rabbinical authorities and someone’s colleagues, can exert much more efficient pressure on someone who should not be performing this procedure to stop performing it,” he added.

    Since 2000, there have been 17 reported cases of infants who have contracted herpes following MbP in New York City, according to the CDC. In addition, in 2009 there were two cases reported in Rockland County confirmed by The Jewish Week and two 2012 cases in New Jersey reported by the Forward.

    amyclark@jewishweek.org