Last week, the Brooklyn district attorney confirmed that prosecutors are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a two-week old infant who died last fall in Brooklyn after he contracted herpes from a religious circumcision at Maimonides Medical Center. As we noted, the case sounded eerily similar to that of Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, a Rockland County mohel who was found to have given three babies herpes through the ritual several years ago. Prosecutors have noticed that as well, and just announced they were investigating Fischer in connection to the baby's death—and it turns out that Fischer has continued performing the controversial religious circumcisions despite a court order to stop.
Fischer remains prohibited by a 2007 court order from performing the metzizah b'peh ritual, in which a rabbi or mohel removes blood from the wound with his mouth. Fisher was sent a letter from the NY State Department of Health about it this week: “He was sent a letter reminding him the summary order is still in effect and that he cannot perform this ritual,” agency spokesman Michael Moran said. Moran added that Fischer is part of the overall investigation, given his past history.
The Jewish Week discovered recently that the medical protocol adopted in 2006 by the NY State DOH and the haredi community to prevent the transmission of herpes from the religious circumcisions was rescinded less than a year later due to internal politics. They also discovered that Fischer was still performing the ritual—they got taped conversations in which Fischer is heard scheduling a circumcision with a caller who asks him to perform metzitzah b’peh. On the recording, “Rabbi Fischer asks the caller whether the bris will take place ‘in Monsey or the city’, noting that he ‘can only do it in Rockland County.’”
On that last point, Failed Messiah notes it appears that Rockland Health Department Commissioner Dr. Joan Facelle may have illegally allowed Fischer to continue performing the circumcisions. If so, she can be criminally prosecuted by the state, and would be personally liable civilly if any babies were infected by Fischer.