By Debbie Maimon
Are New York City authorities poised to launch a new initiative against metzitzah b’peh?
A NYC health alert reporting that two new cases of neonatal herpes have occurred “following ritual Jewish circumcision,” accompanied by media stories echoing well-worn falsehoods about MBP, has prompted speculation that a new offensive against the practice may be in the planning stages.
Sacred to religious Jews for millennia, MBP has been under assault by NYC officials for almost a decade, beginning with a libel campaign against a respected mohel in 2005. Since that time, Department of Health officials have orchestrated a series of moves against the practice, claiming it heightened the risk of herpes infection (HSV-1) in newborns and led to sickness and death.
Although no hard evidence has ever been produced to substantiate these allegations, the effort to outlaw metzitzah b’peh reached fruition under former Mayor Bloomberg in 2012.
Bloomberg joined forces with the Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the promulgation of an amendment to the city’s health code. The new law forbade mohalim from practicing MBP without obtaining written consent from parents in self-incriminating language that spelled out the city’s doctrine that MBP kills newborns.
Viewing the law as an unprecedented infringement on bris milah and a violation of constitutional rights to freedom of religion and speech, a coalition of religious groups sued the City of New York in January of this year, asking a federal judge to overturn the parental consent law. The case is still pending.
Jewish groups have slammed the DOH for pushing for adopting an amendment to the Health Code that would ban MBP, force parents to sign incriminating waivers before the ritual can be performed, and coerce mohalim to speak disparagingly of their religious beliefs.
The coalition brief, authored by Jones Day attorney Shay Dworetzky and bolstered by a team of experts in infectious diseases, epidemiology and statistics, exposed the shabby research behind a CDC study used by the City to support its theory of “causation” between MBP and neonatal herpes.
“No case of neonatal herpes anywhere in the world has ever been proved, through definitive DNA fingerprinting, to have resulted from metzitzah b’peh,” the brief challenged in a devastating attack on the CDC’s purported scientific research.
This body of research by the CDC has since been so discredited; it was set aside by a federal judge ruling on the request for a temporary injunction against the consent law.
Since then, city pronouncements about MBP have tellingly avoided the words “proven,” or “confirmed,” when describing “likely causation” between the ritual and the disease.
The media has followed suit yet notice the power of innuendo and actual incitement in the following excerpt from a Daily News article.
Read the rest of the article at Yated Ne’eman.