Orthodox Mobilize To Defend Circumcision Rite

City May Require Consent Forms for Blood-Sucking Ritual

Fight the Form: New York City health officials want any parents whose babies undergo a controversial circumcision rite involving sucking of blood to sign a consent form. The ultra-Orthodox vow to resist.
getty images
Fight the Form: New York City health officials want any parents whose babies undergo a controversial circumcision rite involving sucking of blood to sign a consent form. The ultra-Orthodox vow to resist.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published August 14, 2012, issue of August 24, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

New York City could face mass resistance in the ultra-Orthodox community to proposed regulation of Jewish circumcision rites that involve the oral suctioning of blood from genital wounds, say advocates for that community.

The city’s Board of Health is set to vote on a proposal that would require parents to sign a consent form before their children are subjected to the controversial ritual, known as metzitzah b’peh. The form would warn that babies can contract a type of herpes sometimes fatal to small infants through the practice. The form will also warn that HSV-1, as this herpes type is known, can cause brain damage to infants infected by it who survive.

Ultra-Orthodox groups strongly oppose the proposed regulation and have banded together in a broad coalition to oppose its passage.

“Unless the city is ready to subpoena mohels or break the doors in of synagogues around the city, I don’t really think they understand what they’re trying to do,” said Michael Tobman, a political consultant who is working as spokesman for a coalition that includes Agudath Israel, the large umbrella group that advocates for ultra-Orthodox organizations, and various Hasidic sects. “This is a community absolutely committed to resisting this ill-considered effort, up to and including civil disobedience.”

Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of the Agudah, said he did not foresee the rabbinic leadership of his organization calling for outright civil disobedience against the consent forms. But he added: “Will there be compliance with the regulation? I’m not sure.”

Most Jews don’t practice metzitzah b’peh. Modern Orthodox and non-Orthodox religious authorities endorse the use of a sterile pipette, rather than the mohel’s mouth, to suction blood from the baby’s circumcision wound. But many ultra-Orthodox communities see the direct application of the mohel’s mouth to the eight-day-old infant’s wound to suck off his blood as a religiously required element of the ritual.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.