Penn Researchers Charge Orthodox Misused Report on Circumcision Rite

Claim Findings on Metzitzah B'Peh Were Distorted

Twisting the Facts: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are angry at the way a study on a controversial circumcision rite was used by Orthodox groups.
ap photo
Twisting the Facts: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are angry at the way a study on a controversial circumcision rite was used by Orthodox groups.

By Seth Berkman

Published April 18, 2013, issue of April 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

University of Pennsylvania officials are crying foul over what they view as the illicit procurement and misuse by several ultra-Orthodox groups of an internal study by Penn researchers of a controversial circumcision rite.

Penn’s Center for Evidence-based Practice never published or released an assessment it conducted earlier this year of evidence from prior studies showing the risk that the religious rite known as metzitzah b’peh poses to infants, the officials say. Yet somehow, ultra-Orthodox groups recently acquired the Penn study for use in a lawsuit opposing regulation of the practice by New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“The unpublished report was used without our knowledge or consent, and importantly, without proper context,” the University of Pennsylvaia Health System charged in a statement released April 15. The school termed it “regrettable that our evidence review was manipulated for purposes other than advising physicians of important clinical risk factors for newborns.”

In an April 10 email to the Forward, Joel Betesh, project director of the study, also stated bluntly, “I do not agree with the way they are portraying our report.”

The ultra-Orthodox groups claim that the study debunks the medical consensus that infants exposed to metzitzah b’peh, also known as MBP, face a much higher risk of contracting neonatal herpes, a potentially life-threatening disease for newborns.

The three ultra-Orthodox groups — Agudath Israel of America, the Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States & Canada, and the International Bris Association — submitted the Penn paper as evidence in their most recent court brief, filed in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals on April 8. Their suit challenges a New York City regulation requiring a mohel to obtain a signed consent form from the parents of a newborn before performing direct MBP on the infant as part of a ritual circumcision.


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!
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • 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.