And the debate over metzitzah b'peh—the Orthodox Jewish circumcision ritual in which a mohel sucks the blood off an infant penis after removing the foreskin—is not even close to over. Earlier this week the Health Department discussed, much to the dismay of some rabbis, the idea of having parents sign waivers before the the ritual. The DOH will come to a decision in September, and in the meantime politicians are getting feisty about it. Especially since Mayor Bloomberg, a Jew, expressed his distaste for the practice.
On Tuesday Bloomberg was asked about the snip-n-suck ritual and told reporters that "There are certain practices that doctors say are not safe and we will not permit those practices to the extent that we can stop them. You don't have a right to put any child's life in danger, and this clearly does." For background: according to the CDC at least 11 NYC boys have been infected with herpes (at least one fatally) in the past decade because of mtzitzah b'peh.
Bloomberg's opinion did not sit well with Brooklyn State Assemblyman Dov Hikind though! Yup, the Orthodox pol who argued against same sex marriage because Lady Gaga supported it was aghast that Bloomberg might think that parents should acknowledge the procedure might have consequences.
"Orthodox Judaism isn't barbaric," said Hikind, according to the Daily News. "Who cares more about children than their own parents? There's no call for Mayor Bloomberg to speak disrespectfully to our community, to speak condescendingly about our cultural traditions."
Oh and that's not all, he went on: "This issue is not about soda pop. It's about religious tenets and it requires an extremely sensitive and respectful approach, not flip remarks that are insulting to an entire community."
And yet, we're not sure how Bloomberg's statement was that insulting—just honest. As a DOH spokesperson points out, "There is no safe way to perform oral suction on any open wound in a newborn. To protect infant health, parents considering ritual Jewish circumcision need to know that circumcision should only be performed under sterile conditions, like any other procedures that create open cuts, whether by mohelim or medical professionals." And if parents do want to go with the suck-n-snip the DOH isn't talking about banning the ritual—they simply want to make sure that parents understand the risks.