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Cohn said that he would not perform MBP when he believes that one or both parents lead a “permissive” lifestyle. Asked to clarify, Cohn said, “It’s not only herpes; there are other serious diseases, like AIDS and other things.”
At the Syrian bris, performed in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush on a recent weekday morning, the guests were not dressed in the stereotypical garb of Orthodox Jews. The men wore business-casual suits. Many of the women wore makeup, high heels, pants and body-hugging dresses.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Cohn said of the way the guests were dressed. Looking toward one of the women, dressed in a pair of pants, as she left the ceremony, Cohn said, “They are very, very strict about taharat hamishpacha,” the ritual laws of cleanliness that apply during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
When a reporter from the Forward called the infant’s father after the circumcision, the father said that he was aware of the risks of MBP and that he had instructed Cohn not to perform it. “I didn’t allow him to do that,” the father said.
So what did Cohn actually do when he “did what I had to do”? Confronted with the father’s testimony, Cohn said that he had not, after all, performed MBP. But the reason, he said, had nothing to do with the father’s request; it was because the father did not seem observant enough. “That young man is out to have a good time,” Cohn said. “I don’t think he’s so careful who he has a good time with.”
This was not the only time that Cohn followed his own rules regarding MBP, at times even contradicting the expressed wishes of the parents.
Shortly before the Syrian circumcision ceremony began in Brooklyn, one guest remarked to another that he was at a circumcision recently where Cohn was asked not to perform MBP, but the rabbi refused to comply.
He told the family they would have to find another mohel, the guest recounted. Because it was already so late — all the guests had arrived — the family went ahead with the circumcision with MBP, he said.
Cohn confirmed that this had happened recently. He said an infant’s father and the family’s rabbi had asked Cohn not to perform MBP.
“The father was there next to the rabbi,” Cohn said. “I said, ‘Are you strictly religious?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Do you kiss strange women?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Do you go to prostitutes?’ He said, ‘No.’”
Cohn said that in that case, he had to perform MBP.
“Then the father said, ‘All right, go ahead and do it.”
Cohn said he did not obtain written consent from the parents before or after performing MBP that day.
Many Orthodox mohels do not believe that MBP is a necessary part of circumcision. Instead of using the mouth, they use a glass pipette or a sponge to suction the wound.
But among the ultra-Orthodox, a sizable contingent continues to maintain that MBP is an integral part of circumcision.