Protect the Children, Mayor de Blasio

Editorial

getty images

Published February 06, 2014, issue of February 14, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Regulating the ritual practice of a small number of New Yorkers is hardly the top priority of the city’s new mayor, nor should it be, not with the myriad of challenges facing Bill de Blasio, who is slowly remaking city government after 12 years of Michael Bloomberg’s highly successful, though occasionally problematic tenure. But neither is this the time for de Blasio to go wobbly on his principles. And one of those fundamental principles is, as he has stated himself, “protecting children’s lives.”

So if there is a practice common among a minority of New Yorkers that is proven to sometimes cause serious injury or even death to infants, wouldn’t the new mayor want to curtail that practice? Or at least ensure that parents are informed of its consequences? And if a child has been harmed, wouldn’t the mayor want to help his administration investigate who might have caused the injury or death?

The answers to all these questions ought to be yes.

So far, the de Blasio administration has only said no comment.

The practice in question is metzitzah b’peh, in which a mohel performing a brit milah, or ritual circumcision, uses his mouth to suction blood from the open wound he has just made when he removed the foreskin from the penis of an 8-day-old boy. Once it was routinely part of the brit milah — an effective technique for stemming blood flow — but Jews started abandoning the practice about 150 years ago, when safer, more sterile alternatives were sanctioned to clean the wound. Now only some devoutly Orthodox Jews continue to believe that it is absolutely necessary.

It is, however, dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control has concluded that male infants circumcised with confirmed or probable oral sunction are at 3.4 times greater risk for infection than the baby boys whose circumcision was performed more safely. This is because the mouth is a robust home for herpes simplex virus, commonly expressed by cold sores — an easily transmitted, difficult-to-track virus that can cause serious brain injury and even death in vulnerable infants.

Fourteen babies in New York City have contracted herpes following metzitzah b’peh since 2000; two died, two others suffered brain damage. The latest victim was hospitalized in January.


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!
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • 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.