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Circumcision-Related Rite Is Opposed by Israeli Pediatricians

The Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association is calling for an end to a controversial circumcision-related rite that is also under fire in New York.

Direct oral-genital suction, known as metzitzah b’peh, should not be performed during Jewish ritual circumcision, the IAPA said. The association is calling on Israel’s Health Ministry to require maternity wards and clinics to advise parents against metzitzah b’peh, Israeli media reported.

IAPA is recommending that mohels, or ritual circumcisers, use a tube to take the blood from the circumcision wound, preventing direct contact with the infant’s incision.

The rite is not used in most Jewish circumcision ceremonies, but many in the haredi Orthodox community still adhere to it.

Rabbi Chaim Moshe Weisberg, a mohel, told Haaretz that IAPA not after the child’s best interest and is against circumcision.

“They want all parents to stop circumcising their sons, as they did in Germany,” Weisberg said. “The cases of reported diseases allegedly originating from the custom are very few – and even then they can’t prove it was actually transferred from the mohel. Only if a parent requests metzitzah b’peh, as people have done for 3,000 years, do we do it at his request.

“I’m opposed to compulsion. Why do you want to prevent a Jew from Mea Shearim from upholding the traditions of his forefathers, if he knows what the risk is? Why not respect him?”

The controversy over metzitzah b’peh was reignited in New York in March after it came to light that an unidentified infant died Sept. 28 at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center from “disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction,” according to the death certificate.

New York Health Department investigations of newborns with the herpes virus from 2000 to 2011 have shown that 11 infants contracted the virus when mohels placed their mouths directly on the child’s circumcision wound to draw blood away from the circumcision cut, according to a statement from the department. Ten of the infants were hospitalized, at least two developed brain damage and two babies died.

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