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November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Brit Milah’

Mayo on Milah

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

With no more important problems to address in the world, the European Community and even some Americans have attempted to focus public attention on what some claim to believe is the biggest human rights abuse on the planet right now: Jews circumcising their eight day old sons.

Many will recall a venomous campaign against brit milah attacking the ritual as, among other things, unhealthy, complete with cartoons showing leering, fang-toothed rabbis wielding blood-drenched knives, which circulated for a while in San Francisco — the city universally regarded as the world capital of healthy sexual practices.

A new study published by the highly respected Mayo Clinic, however, just may add enough actual facts to the discussion so that a rational result can be attained.

In the Mayo study, Dr. Brian J. Morris explains that “over their lifetime half of uncircumcised males will contract an adverse medical condition caused by their foreskin.” As a result, Morris concludes, the health benefits of infant male circumcision outweigh the risks by a factor of at least 100 to 1.

Dr. Morris and his co-authors argue that the health benefits of milah – not only for the male who undergoes it but also for any future sexual partners — are so great that doctors should be required to offer the procedure to parents. Morris explains: “circumcision might be seen in the same light as other interventions that parents must choose for their child. It is the duty of states to create conditions necessary for the fulfillment of rights to good health by facilitating the availability of interventions that are beneficial. Logically it can be argued that should include male circumcision.”

The study also disproves the suggestion that benefits from circumcision can be obtained if it is delayed until the male is old enough to decide for himself whether to undergo it. Dr. Morris demonstrates not only that there are effectively no detriments to the procedure, but also that its performance in infancy dramatically reduces the risk of urinary tract infections during childhood which may lead to kidney damage. In addition, in a conclusion which will no doubt calm some of those who characterize the Jews’ ancient practice as child abuse, the study also concludes that there is “no adverse effect of circumcision on sexual function, sensitivity, or pleasure.”

All of Morris’s evidence should make a big difference to those who oppose infant male circumcision by analogizing it to female genital mutilation, claiming for themselves the mantle of “intactivists.” We are not aware of anyone —anyone sane, anyway — who even claims that that barbaric practice has any positive medical effects, for the woman victim or anyone else.

The Mayo study concludes with what can only be described as a tongue-in-cheek recognition of the Jew-hatred that really animates the movement against infant male circumcision, but which often tries to hide its face. Morris sums up as follows:

Many nations that condemn childhood male circumcision are not as quick to condemn other comparably invasive and dangerous procedures that have no medical benefit, eg, cosmetic orthodontia, correction of harelip, surgery for tongue-tie, growth hormone injections for treatment of dwarfism, and removal of supernumerary digits. Thus . . . it seems odd that neonatal male circumcision is regarded by some as controversial.

Odd indeed — my goodness, whatever could be motivating such people?

Dr. Morris’s conclusion brings to mind the exchange in doggeral between William Norman Ever, a now-happily unknown British journalist, and Ogden Nash: “How odd of God to choose the Jews,” Ever opined; but “it wasn’t odd,” Nash answered, for “the Jews chose God.”

Pittsburgh Rabbi Denies Botching Circumcision

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg, who was accused last week of botching a circumcision of an 8-day-old boy who was rushed to the hospital after his penis had accidentally been cut off, told a court that is not at fault.

The incident revived worldwide publicity at a time when anti-circumcision lobbies have succeeded in convincing some European officials to back the prohibition of non-medical circumcisions.

Rabbi Rosenberg admitted that the baby boy had been injured, but the lawsuit against him does not specify the wounds. The parents said through the lawsuit that they rushed the baby to a hospital for surgery and leech therapy that helps the body to accept reattached parts.

The suit charged Rabbi Rosenberg with causing a “catastrophic and life-changing injury.”

In his lawyers’ response to the lawsuit, the court was told, “Rabbi Rosenberg performed the Bris Milah in a careful and competent fashion, with the care and skill normally exercised by Mohels under the same or similar circumstances” and “denies that he is liable to plaintiff,” the Pittsburgh Tribune reported.

Mohel Urges New Dads to Help Make the Cut at Circumcision

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Natan Zaidenweber thought the mohel was kidding. His wife, Linda Raab, thought it was some kind of religious formality and didn’t give it a second thought.

But the mohel, Cantor Philip Sherman, was serious. Though most fathers demur when he invites them to perform the bris on their sons by clipping their foreskin, preferring to delegate the task to someone professionally trained in the procedure, Sherman finds that about 5 or 10 percent of dads agree to do the cut.

“It is the father’s mitzvah to actually perform the bris as Abraham did for his son, Isaac,” Sherman said. “Many fathers have told me what an incredible moment it was for them to do the actual bris and enter their sons into the covenant of Abraham.”

The Mill Valley, Calif., couple realized the cantor wasn’t joking only once the ceremony was underway. Sherman began with a naming ceremony for Jay Hilay and his twin sister, Sivan Rose. Then he again offered Natan the option of making the cut.

The new dad stepped forward, and as his startled wife screamed his name in a tone that she says was intended to say, “Are you crazy?” a friend reassured her it would be easy.

“I then took a deep breath, surrendered to the faith I had in Phil and motioned that they had my blessing to proceed,” Raab said.

Sherman, who says he has performed more than 20,000 circumcisions, set up what was needed, gave the baby some sugar water, put a clamp in place and offered Zaidenweber some direction. Making the cut, Zaidenweber said, was a powerful bonding experience.

“I’m glad I did,” he said. “I’m glad I have that connection with my son. Your love is equal for both [twins], but it’s special that we have that bond.”

For Raab, too, the experience was a positive one. Sherman had told the gathering that a baby’s cry during a bris is like the sound of the shofar opening the gates of heaven.

“I closed my eyes, heard Jay’s cry and actually was able to experience it as deeply spiritual and beautiful,” Raab said, noting her pride that her husband took on the role.

“He stepped up, fearlessly, with a faith in himself that I wouldn’t have had in myself,” she said. “I have since been aware of how much his modeling has helped me to muster more courage as I face the tasks of mothering.”

If the couple were to have another son, would Zaidenweber make the snip again? Yes, say mom and dad, without hesitation.

European Anti-Circumcision Resolution: Brit Same as Female Mutilation

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

A resolution that calls male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children” was passed overwhelmingly by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The council, a pan-European intergovernmental organization, debated and passed the resolution on Tuesday based on a report by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development led by German rapporteur Marlene Rupperecht. The resolution passed by a vote of 78 in favor and 13 against, with 15 abstentions.

The resolution calls on states to “clearly define the medical, sanitary and other conditions to be ensured for practices such as the non-medically justified circumcision of young boys.”

It also calls on member states to “initiate a public debate, including intercultural and interreligious dialogue, aimed at reaching a large consensus on the rights of children to protection against violations of their physical integrity according to human rights standards” and to “adopt specific legal provisions to ensure that certain operations and practices will not be carried out before a child is old enough to be consulted.”

Practices covered by the resolution include female genital mutilation, the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons, early childhood medical interventions in the case of intersexual children, corporal punishment, and the submission to or coercion of children into piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery.

Large majorities rejected five amendments that sought to remove or alter references to the circumcision of boys. An amendment that removed a reference to the “religious rights of parents and families” was supported by a large majority of members.

“Although the adoption of this report is non-binding and does not represent any direct threat to milah, we are troubled at the readiness of the Parliamentary Assembly to dismiss the points made during the debate about religious freedom,” the Milah UK organization told JTA.

The ritual circumcision of boys younger than 18 has come under attack increasingly in Scandinavia and German-speaking European countries both by left-wing secularists and right-wingers who fear the influence of immigration from Muslim countries.

Anti-Circumcision Group to Picket ACLU’s Marriage Equality Rally

Monday, July 15th, 2013

San Francisco anti-circumcision activists are planning to picket a campaign for marriage equality by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU )in Oakland Wednesday evening because the civil liberties group opposes circumcision bans.

The reasoning is based not only on mixing apples and oranges but also making them equal, just like boys and girls are born equal – from top to bottom.

Here is a civil liberties group campaigning for equality in marriage but is being picketed because it does not support the argument that there should be gender equality in the law that protects girls from circumcision.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has organized a screening of “The Campaign,” and members of Bay Area Intactivists said they will protest outside the event venue” to condemn the ACLU’s work denying boys equal protection from genital mutilation.”

The ACLU’s sin, in the eyes of anti-circumcision activists, is that it argued that the San Francisco Male Genital Mutilation Bill a ballot initiative two years ago to restrict non-therapeutic circumcision to consenting adults  violated the right of parents to have their sons circumcisions, according to Jewish law.

The ballot proposal never even reached the voting booths because  a San Francisco judge ruled that state law preempts the city from regulating medical professionals.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi removed the measure from the ballot in her order, stating, “The [California state] statute speaks directly to the issue of local regulation of medical procedures and leaves no room for localities to regulate in this area.”

But if you already are going to change the facts of life and disregard certain bodily differences between girls and boys, then why stick to other facts?

IntactNews, which reports on the “genital integrity movement,” reported that the removal of the proposal from the ballot was “squelching democracy by denying voters their voice.”

In other words, democracy is when you win and it is anti-democratic when you lose.

Once that reasoning can be understood, everything becomes clear.

Federal law protects girls from genital mutilation. IntactNews points out that the law does not stipulate any “religious or cultural exceptions.” If there are any readers who know of a religion that considers circumcision of girls a mitzvah, please raise your hand.

Following the court ruling striking the anti-circumcision proposal from the ballot, California passed a law making it illegal for local authorities to ban or restrict circumcisions. The ACLU backed the law, making it persona non grata for the activists.

By the way if you want to demonstrate against the ACLU next week, be warned that, according to Intact, “a limited number of signs will be available [but] you are also welcome to bring your own sign.”

Norwegian Daily Published Blood Libel Caricature of Circumcision

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

The leading Norwegian daily Dagbladet published a caricature of what appeared to be Jews torturing a baby during a circumcision, and the European Jewish Congress said it may sue it for committing a hate crime.

The caricature that appeared in Tuesday’s newspaper, the country’s third largest in terms of circulation – showed police officers looking on as a bearded man wearing a black hat and black coat sticks a three-tooth pitchfork into the head of a blood-soaked baby while holding a book.

Another unseen person cuts off the baby’s foot with a bolt cutter as a woman in a long-sleeve shirt and a hat shows the officers another blood-spattered book and tells them: “Abuse? No, this tradition is central to our belief.” The police officers apologize “for interrupting.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Copper, said the cartoon was “so virulently anti-Semitic it would make Hitler and Himmler weep tears of joy.”

Manfred Gerstenfeld, a scholar of anti-Semitism and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said the caricature “cannot be viewed separately from centuries of libels in Christian circles that try to establish a link between the ritual abuse of blood and the Jewish faith.”

But in an email sent to MIFF, a Norwegian pro-Israel organization, Dagbladet cartoon artist Tomas Drefvelin said he did not mean to draw Jews in his caricature, which he meant “not as criticism of either a specific religion or a nation [but] as a general criticism of religions,” Drefvelin wrote.

He added, “I gave the people in the picture hats, and the man beard, because this gives them a more religious character … Jew-hatred is reprehensible. I would never draw to create hatred of a people, or against individuals.”

Ervin Kohn, the president of Norway’s Jewish community, told JTA that in Norway, “it is not uncommon to compare brit mila with cutting off limbs and calling it mutilation. This is a form of lying, propaganda.”

European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor stated, “This cartoon has crossed all lines of decency and is dripping with hate and anti-Semitism. We are now studying the possibility that this legally constitutes incitement to hatred and even a hate-crime and will require legal action if this proves to be the case.

“This obviously falls outside the boundaries of freedom of speech as no one has the freedom to incite hatred against a particular people.

“The reason we have laws against hate is because modern society understands the connection between incitement and violence.

“This is a violent cartoon which is meant to inspire hate and contempt against one particular people. This type of hate, reminiscent of Nazi propaganda, cannot be left unanswered, and it is exactly this type of incitement which is contributing to a very troubling period for minorities in Europe at this time, especially with the rise of the far-Right.”

Another Baby (Almost) Bites the Dust

Friday, April 5th, 2013

There has been yet another case of neonatal herpes reported in the media. From the Forward:

Another Jewish newborn — the second in three months — has contracted neonatal herpes due to a controversial oral suctioning technique employed during ritual circumcision, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has reported.

I frankly do not completely understand why anyone continues using the procedure of metzitza b’peh (suctioning with the mouth – MbP). Even more perplexing is opposition to a New York City Health Department requirement to sign a consent form before allowing that procedure to be performed on their newborn immediately after the milah (circumcision).

I am not going to go through the reasoning as to why this procedure is not Halachicly mandated. Been there and done that more than once. Suffice it to say that suctioning blood from the circumcision wound was understood by Hazal to be a requirement for medical purposes.

That it is mandated in the Gemarah makes it a Halachic requirement. But it does not make it part of the actual milah. The Talmud also does not say how that suctioning should be done. Nowhere does it say that it must be done directly by mouth.

But for reasons not completely clear to me, many Hassidim say suctioning the blood by mouth is an essential part of the circumcision itself – without which the circumcision would be invalid. I suppose they base it on a mimetic tradition. This is how they saw their ‘fathers’ do it. And this is how it’s always been done. It therefore must be a requirement.

What about babies that have contracted herpes? They reject completely any evidence that is has been transmitted by a Herpes infected mohel. How, they ask, could it be that a Torah requirement would cause a danger to a child? The truth is not what we see but what ‘God says it is’ (or as I prefer to characterize it – what they THINK God says).The babies who have contracted it post circumcision could not have possibly gotten it from an infected mohel no matter what the evidence shows.

What is even more perplexing is how common MbP is even among non-Hasidim. And the fact that Agudah wastes political capital fighting even the requirement that a consent form be signed. Their response has been that this is a church/state issue. And that tampering in any way with any part of milah is an attack against milah itself.

What’s worse is that in their zeal to protect this procedure they have compared government concerns about the health of the baby to anti-bris campaigns of ancient Greece – where a bris milah was outlawed so as to Helenize their Jewish subjects taking them completely out of the Torah’s orbit.

There are many mohalim here in Chicago. Some do MbP and some do not – using a sterile pipette for suction instead. Those who do MbP are the most popular mohalim among Haredim. Even those who are not Hasidim. It’s almost as if they did not know that MbP is an issue. Or don’t care.

How can a father not care what happens to his baby? How can he say that it’s probably going to be OK? True – it probably will since the incidence is of an infected mohel transmitting the disease is very low. But why do they insist on these moahlim? And why do these mohalim insist on using MbP anyway? They are not Chasidic. And yet MbP is automatic with them. (Although my understanding is that some of them will not use if if asked not to… still – MbP is their default.)

Most people know that R’ Moshe Tendler is vehemently opposed to MbP. He has been publicly called a Hellenizer for his efforts by some members of the right. But according to the Forward so too is R’ Hershel Shachter. From the Forward:

In a public lecture last February in London, Schachter, who is a rosh yeshiva, or senior chief rabbinic authority, at Y.U.’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, claimed that his daughter’s hospital treated three cases per year of Hasidic babies infected with herpes. The infections were “obvously because of metzitzah b’peh,” Schachter told his audience, citing his daughter r.

Schachter also cited his daughter as claiming that there are, in fact, about 15 such cases per year in the city, including the three cases or so she claimed per year at her own hospital. Schachter said his daughter explained that the hospitals do not report these cases because Hasidic clients would not return if they were made public. Schachter’s remarks were first posted March 14 on the website Failed Messiah and authenticated by the Forward.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/another-baby-almost-bites-the-dust/2013/04/05/

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