It was New York City that never agreed to the protocol, which would have allowed for testing. One year after adopting the protocol, New York State also withdrew. The Jewish communities that practice MBP are eager to have testing done in an unbiased manner. They are just waiting for New York City to agree to it.
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In closing, we return to Professor Mc Connell’s statement: “The regulation was, the city concedes, specifically targeted at Orthodox Jews and specifically at the religious ritual of MBP.” Indeed, during the above-mentioned surveillance period, 79 unrelated cases of neonatal herpes were identified, along with the five boys who had been exposed to MBP. At least publicly, the city never attempted to identify the causes behind those 79 cases, let alone to prevent similar occurrences.
As noted by Mr. Shapiro, this is not the first time in the 3,500 years during which MBP has been practiced that this part of bris milah or the entire circumcision procedure itself has been attacked. (The Council of the European Union recently recommended that circumcision be banned altogether.) In the eighties, for example, many who were convinced that MBP results in increased risk for HIV infections pressured major poskim like Rav Moshe Feinstein to suspend the practice. Rav Feinstein refused, finding the evidence entirely lacking. As with the current debate regarding herpes, the arguments were confined to theoretical plausibility. We now know that HIV has never been transmitted through MBP.
May the Jewish community continue its millennia-long commitment to the commandment of bris milah, without any unwarranted government interference. As we read this past Shabbat, that commandment was first given to Avraham Avinu and characterizes our nation in an unparalleled way.
About the Author: Dr. Daniel Berman is an infectious disease specialist at Albert Einstein Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center; Professor Brenda Breuer is director of epidemiologic research, Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care, Beth Israel Medical Center; Professor Awi Federgruen is Charles E. Exley professor of management at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.
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