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!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • 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?
  • 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.