Orthodox Rabbis Vow To Resist Consent Forms for Controversial Circumcision Rite

Balk at New York City Health Rule on Metzitzah B'Peh

Rabbis Resist: Some are vowing not to cooperate with a New York city requirement for parental consent forms for a controversial circumcision rite.
Rabbis Resist: Some are vowing not to cooperate with a New York city requirement for parental consent forms for a controversial circumcision rite.

By Seth Berkman

Published January 30, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
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Cohn said he had never encountered a single infection as a mohel. He believed that the city’s attacks on the health risks of metzitzah b’peh were unproved and unjustified.

Cohn’s organization, the American Board of Ritual Circumcision, founded in 2004, lists contact information for 52 mohelim on its website. Most are from New York. But the listings also include mohelim in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Ohio and Wisconsin.

In her ruling, Buchwald found that the plaintiffs were unlikely to prevail. She argued in her decision that mohelim were not being forced to directly provide the forms and therefore were not being compelled to convey speech that violated their religious views. “If a parent arrived with her infant on the day of the bris and did not have a consent form, [the law] would simply require that the mohel not perform MBP until the parent somehow procured a consent form, signed it and gave it to the mohel,” she wrote.

The DOHMH voted unanimously last September to approve the regulation requiring consent forms. But for three months the plaintiffs were able to delay its enforcement by filing for a preliminary injunction for a temporary stay of the rule, pending resolution of their suit against the city challenging its legality.

There were further delays in the court system, caused by Hurricane Sandy. The postponement in enforcing the regulation may have had repercussions; on January 7, a counsel for the city notified the court of another case in New York City of neonatal herpes infection following circumcision.

Buchwald finally denied the plaintiffs’ request on January 10. Their appeal of her ruling to the Second Circuit has been referred to a panel of judges for a decision.

“Certainly, we have placed our eggs in the legal basket, and frankly we think we have a strong legal case to be made, and we’re hopeful in the end we will prevail,” Zwiebel said.


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