Thursday, June 11, 2015


Mayor Bill de Blasio is working to change the way New York City regulates a bizarre traditional circumcision practice common among some Orthodox Jews in the city:
A Bloomberg-era consent form required for a controversial circumcision ritual used in some ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities is on its way out as New York City officials look to other means of educating parents about the health risks....

The form calls for parents to acknowledge knowing the risk of contracting herpes in the ritual known as metzitzah b'peh, a bris ceremony in which a religious officiant -- known as a mohel -- orally removes blood from the incision.
Yes -- the mohel removes the foreskin and then sucks blood from the wound. If he has oral herpes, he can transmit it to the infant, infecting the child for life. Despite this risk, the community has vigorously defended the practice, and has resisted former mayor Mike Bloomberg's written consent form:
The consent rule, introduced under Mayor Bloomberg, was assailed by Orthodox leaders as an infringement of their religious rights. Mr. de Blasio pledged to rescind the rule, and his aides later said the consent forms had been difficult to enforce, saying that herpes infections linked to the practice actually rose in 2014.
Under de Blasio's plan, the consent form will be replaced by ... a brochure. The brochure will be strongly worded ("'Some babies can get sick with herpes, which can lead to death,' the form reads in bold type. 'There is no way to avoid the risk'") -- but it will be voluntary, as will infection testing among mohels:
Hospitals would be asked, but not required, to distribute English and Yiddish versions of the brochure. And although the city has proposed that circumcisers, known as mohels, be tested for herpes if an infant is infected, those tests would not be mandated by law. Instead, City Hall says that Orthodox leaders have pledged to ensure mohels undergo the test; penalties would be enforced by the Orthodox community, not by city law.
And yet prominent leaders of the community still aren't satisfied:
Rabbi David Niederman, an influential Orthodox leader in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sat outside a meeting of the New York City Board of Health on Wednesday, staring at [the] brochure and frowning....

“Serious misstatements,” Rabbi Niederman said, looking pained, as he read the brochure for the first time.
And so discussions continue.


Now I'm asking you to listen. What do you hear?

I'll tell you what you don't hear: You don't hear howls of outrage about this from the right. Imagine the right-wing reaction if metzitzah b'peh were practiced by Muslims rather than Jews. Imagine the reaction if Bill de Blasio were negotiating the regulation of this practice in order to satisfy the objections of Muslim leaders -- leaders who not only rejected a ban on the practice but resisted even a mandatory consent form.

Imagine how many segments Fox News would do on this. Imagine the dark right-wing warnings about the inevitable repeal of the Constitution in favor of sharia law. Imagine the Pam Geller bus ads. Imagine the deep-red states far from Brooklyn that would be passing laws against this, regardless of whether the ritual had ever taken place in those states.

But what do we hear instead? Crickets, because these aren't Muslims, and because most members of the American right, though Christian, regard themselves as ... oh, what's the Jewish equivalent of "more Catholic than the pope"? (See, e.g., Sarah Palin's Star of David necklace and Israeli flag.) You won't face angry demands to adapt or assimilate -- if conservatives like you.


Victor said...

These Bronze Age religious practices may be part of the tradition.

And some of them may have made sense in their time.

But it's the 21st Century AD, and not 800 BC, and there are far better ways to accomplish the same end, and not risk getting the infant sick, or resulting in death.

That's why, when I'm asked if I believe in a God, I tell people I'm not sure, and that I'm an Agnostic.
But I quickly add that the one thing I don't believe in, is organized religion!

theHatist said...

Your religion may have made a wrong term when your religious leaders protest keep legal the practice of sucking baby dicks.

It certainly has made a wrong turn that people defend sucking baby dicks and giving them herpes.

petrilli said...

I heard this on the radio last night and first thought was Brooklyn "Sharia" no-go zones. Literal "Sharia" no-go zones as in, places you don't go: 14 blocks of removed bike lanes on Bedford Avenue because shiksas in spandex bike suits had the local Wiliamsburg fanatics all riled up. Another no-go zone, Sukkah Huts. For over a week, people (even in wheelchairs) are forced into the street even at busy dangerous intersections like Kings Highway and Nostrand. Muslim neighborhoods on Coney Island Avenue are much more laid back when it comes to working and playing well with others. At least in this town, anyway.

Where is Pam Gellar on the oral sucking mohalim issue?

I'll bet she wears Spandex too.