January 30, 2013
Orthodox Rabbis Vow To Resist Consent Forms for Controversial Circumcision Rite
Balk at New York City Health Rule on Metzitzah B'Peh
by Seth Berkman
The leading association for mohelim who practice a risky oral blood suctioning technique in their circumcisions has vowed not to cooperate with New York City’s new health regulations governing use of the technique, known as metzitzah b’peh.
Brooklyn mohel Rabbi Avrohom Cohn, chairman of the American Board of Ritual Circumcision, said his group would not have parents sign waiver forms, which the city is now requiring as a condition for performing metzitzah b’peh.
“He’s the mayor of the biggest city in the world, but I’m not going to listen to him,” Cohn said, referring to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has strongly backed the new rules. “I have another mayor, the Almighty, and I will do it His way.”
Failure by a mohel who practices metzitzah b’peh to produce the relevant signed consent forms on request is “a violation of the New York City Health Code,” the DOHMH said in a statement to the Forward. Violating that code can lead to “a range of penalties,” the department added, including fines up to $2,000.
Orthodox defenders of the practice have filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reverse Buchwald’s ruling, but that is pending.
Now that the DOHMH rule is enforced, Orthodox defenders of the practice appear to be split on how to respond. David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel, an influential umbrella organization for ultra-Orthodox groups, said his organization has not issued any directive advising whether or not parents should sign the consent forms.
New York City council member Lewis Fidler told the Forward at that time that the regulation was “probably next to impossible to enforce.” Fidler said: “Will you have undercover agents at a bris? In the end this will probably be a regulation flagrantly violated.”
In its statement to the Forward, DOHMH said it had “no plans for continuous monitoring” of mohels. “DOHMH will request forms from mohelim when investigating neonatal herpes cases potentially caused by direct oral suction or when investigating complaints by parents about direct oral suction,” the statement said. [Fat lot of good it does a baby with herpes that his parents have given informed consent for him to be infected.]
Cohn said he was working with other mohelim to organize a “day of prayer” that would draw “millions of people” who believe “in the existence of God” to protest in front of Bloomberg’s office in City Hall.
“We’re working very hard, spending a fortune of money on this,” he said.
Niederman said he did not know of any planned protests and that official bodies involved in the lawsuit have never discussed such action.