Circumcision Controversy Endangers Fight To Keep Rite Legal in Germany

Lawsuits Cite Rabbi's Videotape of Metzitzah B'Peh

By A.J. Goldmann and Donald Snyder and Nathan Jeffay

Published May 06, 2013, issue of May 10, 2013.

(page 4 of 4)

The Israel Chief Rabbinate’s decision to enter the dispute on Teichtal’s side has, meanwhile, complicated perceptions of its position on the issue in Israel itself.

Earlier this year, the rabbinate issued a letter to Israeli mohels that was seen as an effort to support the use of sterile pipettes. The letter followed an Israeli study which found that 30% of neonatal herpes in the country was attributable to MBP.

But in an April 22 letter to Teichtal from Morsiano, the rabbinate’s director of the division for circumcisions, the Israeli rabbi stressed that MBP was integral to the circumcision ritual. There is no justification for canceling MBP, he wrote, “unless the mohel has a sore in his mouth, or some infectious disease.” At the same time, Morsiano said that the mohel is required to get the family’s permission to perform the oral suction.

Medical authorities say that adult herpes carriers often have no sores and are unaware they are infectious. Yona Amitai, one of Israel’s most prominent pediatrics experts, said that in his view, the rabbinate had, through its letter, “highly discouraged” the alternative method of performing the rite with a sterile pipette. “I highly criticize this approach from the standpoint of public health despite the fact that I am religious,” Amitai said.

But Morsiano, in an interview with the Forward, insisted that he has not come out against the tube method, nor has he backtracked on the recent letter to Israeli mohels, which presented the sterile pipette method as equally valid. The intended meaning of the letter, according to him, was that “there is no justification to abolish [MBP] as an option for those who want it.”

A.J. Goldmann reported from Berlin. Nathan Jeffay reported from Jerusalem. Donald Snyder reported from Greenwich, Conn. Contact A.J. Goldmann at

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