Debating The Mayoral Candidates’ Position On Metzitzah B’Peh

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As if we didn’t have this conversation with all of the candidates running for mayor of New York City, the NY Times has managed to find the two main contenders in conflicting positions about thier position on Metzitzah B’Peh.

The Democratic candidate, Bill de Blasio, and the Republican candidate, Joseph J. Lhota, have both pledged to revisit the issue if elected as mayor. But their stances have raised questions, the NY Times writes, because, in Mr. de Blasio’s case, he stood silently as Jewish leaders described his position in different language than he has used, and, in Mr. Lhota’s case, he has changed his position over the course of the campaign.

In April, Mr. Lhota, speaking at an event at Fordham Law School that was captured on video by photo journalist Shimon Gifter, expressed support for the policy on consent forms, calling it “a reasonable approach” to inform parents of the health risks.

“If you understand the risks, and you sign it that you understand the risks, then the burden is on you,” Mr. Lhota said. “It’s a good thing to do. That’s what government should do.”

Then last month, at a Republican mayoral forum in Borough Park sponsored by The Jewish Press, he expressed a different view, saying he believed the administration’s policy was “absolutely wrong.”

“I don’t believe that you need to be given a piece of paper and you must sign it on the dotted line,” Mr. Lhota said. He added that he would support allowing the city to hand parents information about risks when they leave the hospital after childbirth, but not requiring the person who performs a circumcision to obtain a signed consent form from parents.

This week, after he was recorded on video again condemning the policy in a meeting with an ultra-Orthodox leader in Brooklyn whose support he was seeking, he was asked about his change of position. “My position hasn’t changed,” he told reporters on Tuesday after an appearance at New York University.

But his spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, offered a more nuanced defense, saying in an e-mail: “Mr. Lhota has been consistent in his position that the role of government is to educate, not mandate. After speaking with Jewish leaders early on in his campaign, he gained a better understanding of their concerns and slightly evolved his position so that new parents would receive the information, but not have to sign anything.”

The case with Mr. de Blasio is more complicated. At a forum in the spring, before a Jewish audience in Brooklyn, he answered a question about the policy citing “legitimate concerns” about public health, but criticizing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who pressed for the regulation, for trying “to impose his will” without sensitivity to religious beliefs. He said he wanted to meet with community leaders and “change the policy to find a way to protect all of our children but also respect religious tradition.”

But earlier this month, two days before the Democratic primary, he stood silently at a rally of Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, while two speakers described his policy in much less ambiguous terms. One of them said Mr. de Blasio had promised to get rid of the Bloomberg policy “right away.”

A de Blasio spokesman, Dan Levitan, later said that those comments did not accurately reflect Mr. de Blasio’s position, and that the candidate would keep the consent form policy in place until a better solution was found.

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Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology and Jewish studies at the City University of New York, said ultra-Orthodox Jews had other concerns besides the circumcision ritual, including housing subsidies and poverty programs. But he said it was easier for politicians to express concern about the circumcision policy than it was to pledge to give more economic aid.

“If you can say something that seems like, ‘I’m supportive of your point of view on this,’ it’s a really cheap promise,” Dr. Heilman said. “It doesn’t require a great deal from you.”

(Jacob Kornbluh – YWN)