City's $2G fine not enough to stop herpes-spreading mohels from performing blood-sucking circumcision ritual

By Reuven Blau (NY Daily News)
March 31, 2017

Jewish blood is cheap — $2,000 to be precise.

That’s the amount of the fine under the de Blasio administration’s new beefed up approach to protect newborns from the potentially dangerous circumcision practice — known as metzitzah b'peh — of sucking the blood from an infant’s newly circumcised penis.

City health officials say the ritual carries an “inherent risk” of spreading herpes to babies.

Wednesday, the city announced that it has told two mohels that they can no longer perform the ritual. And if they do, they’ll get hit with a $2,000 fine.

Good luck with that.

The Bloomberg administration took a similar stance against mohel Yitzchok Fisher, who health officials say passed on herpes to a baby, only to watch him allegedly continue to endanger newborns.

City medical officials now say they are doing everything possible to protect the newborn boys, including educating parents about potential hazards of the age-old practice.

In December, my wife gave birth to a baby boy at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

We were ordered to watch a video about the dangers of violently shaking a baby and got a lecture about the benefits of breast feeding.

Cautions about the dangers of having our mohel pass on potentially deadly herpes? Not a peep.

Eight days later, he was circumcised during a ceremony just off to the side of the ark after Sabbath prayer services.

Beforehand, I made it clear to the mohel — no metzitzah b’peh.

Six babies have gotten herpes from the ritual over the past three years.

All survived — but their health never should have been put at risk. Others were not as lucky.

Two of the 18 babies who caught herpes through “direct oral suction” since April 2006 died, the city says.

The city Health Department used to issue an alert every time a new case of bris-induced herpes surfaced. That helped doctors, and members of the press, track the health dangers.

Those alerts suddenly stopped in early 2016.

Asked to explain the bris blackout, a health official delivered an explanation that would make the best public relations rep proud.

There was so much attention given to the issue that the city felt doctors, and parents, were already aware of the disease, the official said.

But new cases continue.

And the $2,000 fine seems like a minor tap on the tuchus at best.

In fact, it’s roughly the cost of four circumcisions, hardly a frightening proposition for a full-time mohel.

Our mayor cares deeply about the Hasidic community, so much so he got caught up in multiple scandals involving Jewish businessmen and powerbrokers.

That includes one who lobbied him on this very issue, Moshe Indig.

Many rabbis question the science cited by health officials, arguing the herpes may have come from the mother.

But they refuse to sign off on allowing mohels to participate in any serious medical testing.

The Torah says that the saving of a life takes precedence over everything — even if it comes to violating holy tenets like the Sabbath.

That rule appears to have gotten lost in the conversation when it comes to self-imposed enforcement.

If the Health Department is legitimately concerned about the safety of Jewish babies, the city should label this practice by a banned mohel what it really is: a criminal act, endangering the welfare of a child.