New York – While metzitzah b’peh is not illegal in New York City, the city requires parents having their children circumcised in that manner to sign a consent form saying they understand “direct oral suction should not be performed because it exposes an infant to the risk of transmission of herpes simplex virus infection, which may result in brain damage or death.”
City health commissioner Thomas Farley advises that the practice, known as metzitzah b’peh, “never be performed.”
At two recent mayoral forums, nearly all of the candidates who want to be mayor said that even the Bloomberg administration’s requirement of a consent form is a step too far.
Last night, at a forum hosted by the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition and the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush, former comptroller Bill Thompson said that he wants to sit down and talk more about the issue, according to New York Times columnist Michael Powell.
Former congressman Anthony Weiner said that protesting the practice amounted to “liberal elitist condescension,” and comptroller John Liu said that he would “leave it to the rabbis.”
Only Council Speaker Christine Quinn, per Powell, said it made sense to have some sort of safety precaution in place.
A very similar scenario played out last week at a forum hosted by the Jewish Press, when public advocate Bill de Blasio faulted Bloomberg for trying to “impose his will,” called vaguely for “real dialogue,” urged “respect for religious tradition,” and called for a “new policy that’s fair.”
Liu said he’d scrap the consent form altogether.
“This is something that’s been going on for thousands of years, thousands of years, and it’s continued to this day until for some reason, a particular billionaire mayor in this city decided that he must know better than anybody else,” he said.
Quinn faulted the city for not listening to the rabbis, even though it was a big meeting between Michael Bloomberg and the rabbis from which that compromise position (the consent form) emerged.
But she also said, “I would not change the consent form, I would leave it in place moving forward.”
Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a professor of biology at Yeshiva University, says that not only is there no religious requirement for metzitzah b’peh, “It was largely brought to America by Hungarian immigration after the Holocaust, but “you will not find a single respected pediatrician who will defend that oral practice.”
According to Tendler, the mayoral candidates’ stance on the issue is all about the politics.
“They’re fighting for several thousand, maybe tens of thousands of votes in the Wiilliamsburg area alone,” he said.
But what of that religious freedom argument?
“Are they going to support also female circumcision on that basis?” he asked.
Read in full at CAPITAL NEW YORK.