Rabbis Fighting Department of Health
January 5th, 2006
A battle is brewing between Orthodox Jews and city health officials. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene now says it will launch a public education campaign against the practice of metzitzah b’peh, a widely used circumcision procedure in which the practitioner cleans blood off the wound by sucking it with his mouth. Last month, health officials concluded that five infants caught herpes from the practice. One of the children died from the disease and another suffered brain damage, according to the Health Department.
Jewish leaders are fighting the campaign, while health officials aren’t budging on their stance. Ben Smith excerpts a few paragraphs of an editorial the Yiddish paper Der Blatt and seems to point to a campaign promise that pinned Orthodox support for Bloomberg on the city’s non-interference in circumcision practices. It’s a stew of legal, cultural and political issues, and it may be, as Smith writes, “rising to a head.”
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