Israel Chief Rabbinate Backs Controversial Circumcision RIte as 'Preferred'

Illness Only Justification To Avoid Metzitzah B'Peh

getty images

By JTA

Published April 24, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israel’s chief rabbinate has weighed in on the practice of a controversial circumcision rite in Germany, saying that metzitzah b’peh is preferred.

The practice, in which blood is sucked orally from the circumcision wound, is under scrutiny in Germany, due to a complaint filed against a Berlin rabbi for allegedly committing bodily harm during a brit milah.

Rabbi Moshe Morsiano, chair of the Division of Circumcision for the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, emphasized in a letter dated April 22 that there is no justification for avoiding metzitzah b’peh “unless the mohel has a sore in his mouth, or some infectious disease.”

The letter was addressed to Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, who heads Chabad Lubavitch in Berlin and is one of several official rabbis in the city. Teichtal requested the response after an anti-circumcision activist filed charges against him, claiming oral suction was performed at the brit milah of Teichtal’s son. Berlin’s state prosecutor is looking into the merits of the case.

Germany’s new law regulating ritual circumcision, passed in December, requires that the procedure be done to the highest possible medical standards. Metzitzah b’peh has come under fire by many Jewish groups, including modern Orthodox associations, due to the possible spread of infections that can be fatal to an infant. Opponents recommend the use of a pipette.

In New York, at least 11 boys contracted herpes from the practice between 2004 and 2011, according to New York City health officials. Two died from the disease and two others suffered brain damage. Last September, the board of health voted 9-0 to require mohels to obtain signed consent forms from parents.

In his letter responding to Teichtal’s query, Morsiano concluded that “this committee requires that the mohel obtain the family’s permission before performing this act in the traditional manner.”

The Israeli chief rabbinate was the latest of several international Orthodox rabbinical organizations to weigh in on the matter. Its support of the tradition reflects that of the Brussels-based Rabbinical Council of Europe.

On the other hand, the London-based Conference of European Rabbis issued a statement saying that the use of pipettes is approved under Jewish law and preferable, for health reasons. The Central Council of Jews in Germany followed suit.

Meanwhile, Teichtal has not commented on whether the tradition was followed at his son’s brit milah.


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!
  • 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.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • 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.