Second Jewish Infant Contracts Herpes From Controversial Circumcision Rite

Despite Lack of Consent Forms, City Won't Press Case

haaretz

By Seth Berkman

Published April 04, 2013, issue of April 12, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Another Jewish newborn — the second in three months — has contracted neonatal herpes due to a controversial oral suctioning technique employed during ritual circumcision, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has reported.

The parents of the child did not sign a recently mandated city consent form authorizing the mohel who conducted the circumcision to employ the technique, known as metzitzah b’peh, or MBP, the department has told the Forward. The parents, whom the department does not name, have additionally declined to identify the mohel, who it appears acted as a carrier of the virus.

The MBP-related herpes case, which the department disclosed in an April 3 email alert, is the first such case to emerge since January, when the city began requiring mohels who perform MBP to first have parents sign a consent form permitting them to do so. But Jean Weinberg, a department spokesperson, said the agency would not pursue legal action in the case, with out elaborating. This may leave the mohel free to infect other children, as some have in the past, according to previous reports by health authorities.

In the meantime, according to the agency, the infant has survived. A city department source said that the case had occurred “too recently” to know whether the boy had sustained any long-term physical or cognitive harm.

MBP, a procedure practiced by some ultra-Orthodox mohels, involves a mohel orally sucking away the blood from the infant’s genital area after cutting off his foreskin during the bris, or ritual circumcision. The practice can infect newborns with herpes simplex virus type 1, according to medical authorities. It’s a virus that, while not serious for adults, can be fatal for infants, or cause permanent cognitive or physical damage. Most mohels in this country use a sterile pipette for for suctioning the blood. But many ultra-Orthodox mohels consider direct suction of the genital area by mouth to be mandated by the Talmud as part of the religious rite.

While rare, the incidence of this virus among New York City male newborns with confirmed or probable exposure to MBP — one in 4,098 — is 3.4 times greater than among newborns outside this group, according to a study published in the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in June 2012.

The health department reports 13 cases of MBP-related herpes since November 2000, including this most recent one. But recently, a senior rabbinic authority at Yeshiva University alleged that the city health agency, and some New York City hospitals, actively suppress the number of cases.

Rabbi Herschel Schachter, the influential Y.U. rabbinical leader who made the charge publicly, cited his own daughter, who, he said, works as a nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, as his source.


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!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • 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.