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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.