“My son will be ill and suffer his entire life” explains Esther, the mother of a baby boy who suffered due to the ‘negligence’ of a mohel, negligence that was established during an urgent meeting of the committee supervising mohalim in Israel.
Esther explains that 18 months ago, she and her husband selected a mohel from the list of list on the official website of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. A number of days following the bris, she explains her son almost died.
“Three days following the bris a number of marks were detected,” she explained during a special Knesset committee discussion initiated by MK (Meretz) Michal Rozen. “We thought it was diaper rash. Then we followed with a blood test and spinal puncture, which led us to learn the child was suffering from herpes, from the mohel who did metzitzah b’peh. The child could have died. But our complaint was forgotten, and nothing was done. Three months passed, and they still did not speak with the mohel, who continued practicing,” she added.
MK Rozen explains that something must be done regarding supervision of mohalim in Israel. She adds that there is currently much talk and concern in Knesset regarding the need to protect children, including discussion about placing surveillance cameras in daycare centers to monitor how children are cared for, yet the matter of mohalim is not addressed.
She explains that official statistics report 75,000 bris milahs were performed in 2017 and complaints were filed against 55 mohalim, of which 43 are not physicians and 12 mohel/physicians. The head of the committee, Rabbi Dr. Avraham Steinberg states, “The committee examines every mishap, both in the wake of complaints from parents or persons present at the bris, and whether the case has reached a hospital. If the mohel is a doctor, the complaint reaches the Ministry of Health. Most of the complaints are about slight bleeding, which caused fear on the part of the parents, and after bandaging the matter worked out smoothly. There are a few more serious cases a year.”
Prof. Steinberg added that “the number of mohel/physicians is tiny – about 22, while there are 350 mohalim who are not doctors and certified and supervised. There are more mishaps among the physician/mohalim. The number of mohalim who have a malfunction and a suspension or sanctions is about 3-4 a year,” Rabbi Steinberg added.
It should be noted that a mohel who is found guilty by the committee is subject to sanctions and sometimes even suspension or revocation of a license, but in practice, various sources argued in the hearing, there is no legal or real impediment to a mohel continuing to work. Carmit Pollak, representative of the Council for the Child Welfare, said: “The Mohalim Committee has a problem that cannot impose real sanctions and supervise all the mohalim. A mohel who messed up should be held criminally liable, and this must be installed in the governing regulations.
In a couple of weeks, a private bill by MK (Kulanu) Rachel Azaria and MK (Likud) Avraham Nagusa is expected to come up, written in cooperation with the Ne’emanei Torah V’Avodah organization and the Itim organization. The main thrust of the bill is to compel mohalim with “liability insurance” and to pay compensation to those injured as a result of negligence.
The explanatory note to the bill states, among other things, that “Mohel should not perform a bris unless he is covered with a liability insurance policy indemnifying a third party for a monetary liability that the insured may be liable for due to bodily injury.” According to the initiators of the law, this is another important step in regulating the mohalim in Israel, a step that will require the mohalim to assume professional responsibility and protect the parents and their children who have been harmed due to negligence.
In this regard, Prof. Steinberg said that although they may recommend, the obligation of the law to have insurance may harm the performing a bris outside of Israel. “It is not part of our demands, but we strongly recommend that we do not have the ability to oblige. Even a doctor can work without insurance. There is no free profession that has an insurance obligation and this would be an excellent excuse to stop bris milah abroad.”
“This is not part of our demands, but we strongly recommend. If there is a law mandating a mohel to be insured, no insurance company will insure mohalim abroad, and that would be an excellent excuse to stop alliances abroad” Prof. Steinberg concluded.
Temporary Committee Chairman MK Yoav Ben-Tzur of Shas said, “Perhaps we should examine how to give more authority to the mohel supervision committee. If a mohel is suspended, to make certain he does not continue to perform bris milah, and to publish names of mohalim who are suspended, even if they were not authorized [by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel]. We will talk to the minister of religious services.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)