How far will Republicans go to protect Religious Freedom?
New York, Orthodox Jews Clash Over Circumcision
December 3, 2012
by: Joel Rose, NPR
Michael Nagle for The New York Times/Redux
Rabbi A. Romi Cohn, a noted mohel, prepares an infant for circumcision at Congregation Shaare Zion in Brooklyn on Sept. 4. Cohn opposes a New York City rule requiring parental consent for a type of circumcision ritual practiced by some Orthodox Jews.
An ancient circumcision ritual is at the center of a present-day legal battle in New York.
The New York City Department of Health wants to require parental consent for a controversial circumcision practice, which it says can spread the herpes virus. But several Jewish organizations are suing to block the new rule, which they say violates their freedom of religion.
Jewish law requires that all baby boys be circumcised on the eighth day of life. Orthodox Jews sometimes follow with a ritual known as metzitzah b'peh. Immediately after the boy is circumcised, the man who performs the ritual — known as a mohel — takes a mouthful of wine. Then he places his mouth around the base of the boy's penis and uses suction to clean the wound.
The mayor is the mayor of the city of New York. But we have a mayor; he's the mayor of the universe. We gonna follow his instructions.
Metzitzah b'peh is supposed to prevent infection. And when it's done correctly, proponents say, that's exactly what it does.
"I did, I think, over 35,000 circumcisions," says A. Romi Cohn, a mohel from the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. "Never had one incident where a baby got an infection. Never, never, never."
Cohn is also the chairman of the American Board of Ritual Circumcision. He says mohels who are properly trained and certified are not a threat to the health of the baby. "Our regulation is very strict about protecting human lives," says Cohn. "If there's any slight possibility — I'm not saying 50 percent, even 1 percent — that that baby gonna get hurt, we not allowed to perform that circumcision."
Requiring Consent For A 'Risky' Procedure
Most circumcisions in New York probably do not involve metzitzah b'peh. Still, the city's Health Department says it has linked the practice to nearly a dozen recent cases of the herpes virus in young boys.