Ivy League Study Casts Doubt on Specious Claims that Metzitzah B’Peh Leads to Herpes in Infants


brisJewish leaders are pointing to a recent independent study by Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania that found little evidence to support the claim that Metzitzah B’Peh (MBP) leads to an increased likelihood of herpes in infants.

In a study published in December last year, University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Evidence-based Practice reviewed several studies linking circumcision with oral suction and herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1. Though four published studies since 2000 suggested that such a link does exist, Penn doctors found the evidence to be “small and significantly limited.”

The study was cited in an appeal filed Monday in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals challenging a New York City Department of Health (DOH) regulation that seeks to place limits on the practice.

“We have been saying for years that the evidence attacking this religious practice is highly dubious, and now we have world class doctors agreeing with us,” said Gedaliah Weinberger , chairman emeritus of the board of trustees of Agudath Israel of America, a party in the suit. “Hard scientific evidence simply does not back up the alarmist efforts of the New York City Board of Health and others who are needlessly interfering with the fundamental constitutional rights of thousands of New Yorkers.”

In the Penn study, the center explains that the evidence base is substantially limited by several factors. First, the number of events – some that date back to the 1980s – is too small to establish a causal relationship. Second, the way the cases were reported led to many questions about their validity. Third, important information about some of the cases is unknown, specifically the infection status of the mothers, which suggests that the disease could have been transmitted in other ways.

“This evidence has important limitations.  The total number of cases is very small and was distributed across three countries and a fifteen year time frame.  As with all case reports, they were identified and selected in a non-systematic manner and cannot be compared with a specific control group,” the Penn review said in reaction to one particular study.

Last year, the DOH passed a regulation requiring rabbis, as a condition of performing MBP, to inform parents that the DOH advises that MBP ‘should not be performed’ because of its alleged risks, and to obtain the parents’ signed consent.  The regulation thus expressly seeks to deter New Yorkers from participating in this religious practice.

Several rabbis and Jewish groups later filed suit, arguing that the DOH regulation violates both the U.S. and the New York Stateconstitutions. By forcing rabbis to communicate the DOH’s subjective advice that MBP should not be performed, along with equally subjective views about unproven health risks, the DOH is imposing its own beliefs on others and violating the rights of the rabbis. Moreover, the suit casts doubt on the DOH’s contention that undisputed medical facts show that MBP poses a risk, a contention now further undermined by the independent Penn study.

“The Department of Health would have the public believe there is an epidemic going on, which is not only untrue but irresponsible,” said Dr. Brenda Breuer , PH.D., M.P.H., an expert witness in the case. “This is a procedure the Jewish community has been performing for thousands of years without an issue, and that has not suddenly changed in the last ten years.”

{Andy Heller-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. It’s those who are ignorant (unfortunately even among religious Jews), and those who are virulently biased against religious rituals who make the claim against MBP.

  2. @#5:

    In the language of statistics, “small and significantly limited” means that they cannot show a correlation (the hypothesis that MBP causes herpes was not found to be true). It does NOT mean that it does happen on occasion – which, as you correctly point out, would be too much. All it means is that some babies who had had MBP done did have the disease. It would be like saying if the Mohel eats Rice Krispies, the relationship between that fact and herpes is “small and significantly limited” because twice it happened that a sick baby’s Mohel had in fact eaten Rice Krispies that morning.

  3. Why even bother with the “studies”. We’re just gonna continue with metzitzah bpeh as we have for centuries, anyway.

  4. Will Michael Savage(nee Michael Alan Weiner) apologize? The worst enemies of the Jewish people are the treasonous, goy-kiss-ups, self-hating Jews.

  5. commonsense,comment #5, you are a realy enemy of your people!!! ‘Tis about time you change your way of life before it may be too late! You are ready to stick up for ANYONE who is against your people!!!

  6. It’s a bit hypocritical for a community to do everything in its power to prevent this subject from being studied and then to claim that the evidence of danger is inadequate.

  7. When someone has an agenda, it is not hard to find a study that agrees with it.
    I’m not saying there is a health risk, and I am not saying there is not. But we need to not be biased in one direction or the other.

  8. From the start of this debacle, I knew that these cases were most likely due to the mother at birth. All of a sudden these things just don’t pop up. Do believe it’s all part of the worldwide campaign to outlaw, if they could, all Jewish practices, chas v’sholom. The last couple of nights, we heard radio host, michael savage, who acted like a savage by his vicious rantings against this practice. He is what one calls an apikorus and am haaretz shoteh. He makes sure to publicize about a dozen times within his few hours on the radio each night that he has his PhD (or 2) and how smart he is. He has his PhD in plants, insects (something like that). That, of course, makes him an expert on everything under the sun. Some inarticulate listeners called and he mopped them up and said he was the rabbi and that the Talmud and everything besides the chamishei Chumshei Torah are all written by men and they lived thousands of years ago and didn’t know of the science we have today. His arrogance is beyond description. Of course, science in his eyes is of much more importance and means more than G-D’s Words. He would not listen nor give a chance to anyone trying to explain that all is from Sinai. He is crude, rude and completely ignorant of anything Jewish. When one thinks of himself so highly, it shows their ignorance. I’m sure that if there were any articulate Rabbis amongst the listeners, they were afraid to call, just not to fall into his foul mouth. I, personally, found his last two shows a chilul H’. He should stick with politics; it’s the only thing he knows what he is talking about.

  9. More infants die from bathtub drowning than any Bris Mila. Should we ban giving children baths? This is clearly an attack on our religeous freedoms. All the idiots on Bl$$mbergs “health panel” should be arrested & thrown in prison.

  10. comment #14 – et the father of the baby do it- at least its not someone who comes into so much blood contact or a stranger.

  11. I’m Angered by one fact! WE allowed some people to represent us with no knowledge or understanding what they should defend. I believe that there should be a law in Judaism to forbid representation of Judaism unless agreed by the sages of the generation.

  12. #16
    I’ve been told by a mohel (who is involved at a high level), one of the issues contesting the DOH’s evidence is that they are not releasing it to the frum side for debate. I think it’s because they know it can be contested and disproven. The DOH and Bloomberg’s clan have avoided debating the issue and the evidence in an effort to solidify thier ….decree.