The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has sent a letter of support to Berlin Chabad Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, who was charged by an anti-circumcision activist for practicing the ritual of oral suction of a small amount of blood at a circumcision.
The practice is widely accepted in Israel but caused controversy in the New York area after several reports of herpes. At least two boys died and two others suffered brain damage in the 11 cases of herpes reported by New York City health officials after the practice was carried out at circumsions in the years 2004-2011.
Last September, the board of health voted 9-0 to require mohels to obtain signed consent forms from parents before performing the rite.
Rabbi Moshe Morsiano, director of the division for circumcisions in the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, emphasized in his letter that that the ritual of oral suction should not be carried out when the mohel is ill or has a sore in his mouth.
Rabbi Morsiano listed a number of opinions written by rabbis of the past several generations, all whom concluded that the ritual, known in Hebrew as Metzitza B’Pe, is integral part of ritual circumcision.
The Rabbinical Center of Europe, which represents m ore than 700 rabbis, also has supported Rabbi Teichtal.
The controversy in Germany is particularly important because of last year’s ruling by a judge in a German province that circumcision is illegal. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped in and backed legislation to make sure that religious circumcision remained legal.
“The Jews of Europe must have religious freedom,
said the Rabbinical Center. “All Jewish leaders have the responsibility and obligation to stop any interference with any detail of Jewish practice”.