Anti-bris milah fervor is back in the news. What else is new?
The “antis” are going at it full force, with the help, of course, of so-called “Jewish” and “frum” websites.
So what else is new?
But before I get to my main point, allow me to share something that has bothered me for a while. It is a point that was actually made superbly by Dr. Berman in his article on the topic of metzitzah b’peh, and I take the liberty of quoting him:
In the medical literature dealing with transmission of viral infections, DNA fingerprinting evidence is almost always presented as a way of proving that the transmission occurred from a suspected source. This involves matching the DNA found in the virus of the suspected source to that of the new case. For example, in 1990, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a study proving the transmission of HIV from a dentist to five of his patients in Florida. There was very careful DNA fingerprinting of the patients’ and the dentist’s HIV strains to determine that they were all one. A 1996 article discussed the transmission of hepatitis B virus to multiple patients from a single surgeon. Fingerprinting was used in that case as well to prove that the surgeon was indeed the source. Another study in 1999 proved transmission of HIV from an orthopedic surgeon to a patient in France. Once again, DNA fingerprinting was used.
Within the body of literature dealing with the transmission of Herpes simplex, DNA fingerprinting seems to be a basic requirement of any study whose purpose is to demonstrate transmission. There is a case report of a father transmitting Herpes simplex to his son. The case report demonstrated DNA matching of the Herpes simplex lesion that the father later developed with the Herpes simplex virus that infected the baby. There is another published article reporting on an outbreak of Herpes simplex in an intensive-care nursery.
There was an index case of a baby with Herpes simplex, and ten days later, three more infants developed Herpes simplex. The four cases had DNA fingerprints of Herpes simplex which matched, indicating that they were all infected with the same virus. Although the original source was not determined, the authors felt that there was a strong possibility that person-to-person transmission to the secondary cases occurred through healthcare workers.
In the literature dealing with possible transmission of Herpes simplex through metzizah b’peh, there is not a single case in which DNA fingerprinting is presented as a way of proving transmission. By contrast, it appears that in all the other literature dealing with transmission of a virus, it is difficult to find one that does not report DNA fingerprinting. Of all the literature claiming that metzizah b’peh has transmitted Herpes simplex infection to babies, the most publicized article is the one that appeared in the journal Pediatrics in 2004. This article was authored by ten physicians and two non-physicians with Ph.D.’s. It reported on the collective experience of these physicians covering seven medical centers in Israel and one in Toronto, Canada, over a six-year period from 1997 to 2003. They collected eight cases from “personal communication and experience of the authors.” In these cases, the infants developed Herpes simplex on the male organ following a bris. There were six mohelim involved. Two mohelim had two cases each. Only four of the six mohelim were tested for Herpes simplex antibody, which would be only a starting point to even consider a mohel as the possible source. All four mohelim tested had antibodies to Herpes simplex. This is not surprising, as 90% of the adult population has antibodies to Herpes simplex. The article does not mention whether it was antibody to Herpes simplex or Herpes simplex 2, which can be measured separately. The authors concede that mouth cultures obtained from the mohelim were all negative for Herpes simplex virus, although they did not state how many cultures were obtained. (A culture shows the actual presence of virus, in contrast to antibody, which is a protein produced by the body in response to the presence of the virus).
This series of cases presented a tremendous opportunity to do DNA fingerprinting to prove that there is a link between metzizah b’peh and Herpes simplex. There were two pairs of infants who had the same mohel. In one case, the brisos were five weeks apart. The authors give no reason as to why they did not pursue DNA fingerprinting to compare the Herpes simplex virus of the two infants to establish a common source. The other pair of infants associated with one Mohel developed infection ten years apart. Since the authors did not rely on the gold standard of establishing transmission, DNA fingerprinting, one would think that the epidemiologic evidence presented would be sufficiently convincing to prove their hypothesis. Surprisingly, this is not the case. There is no mention made of whether these physicians had observed cases of Herpes simplex infection on the male organ not associated with metzizah b’peh, or whether they had treated any female babies with Herpes simplex in the genital area. In the absence of this information, the observation that there were some babies who had both metzizah b’peh and Herpes simplex proves nothing.
For more on this and other important points on the metzizah b’peh issue, read Dr. Berman’s excellent treatment of the topic.
Make no mistake: The people who were behind the anti-metzizah b’peh issue last time, some seven years ago, are behind it now. They were ruthless in their tactics then and they are not restrained any more now, using the secular media and any health department willing to listen as their allies.
And sometimes, in their eagerness, they make a mockery of themselves and the medical community.
Yesterday, the Jewish Week reported that The New York City Department of Health “received a report within the last week of an infant with symptoms of neonatal herpes and the case is currently under investigation… While the health department could not confirm where the report came from or whether it involved the circumcision ritual metzitzah b’peh, a source in the medical community told The Jewish Week that a suspected case of neonatal herpes related to metzitzah b’peh, or oral suction, has been treated at Maimonides Hospital within the past week.
Eileen Tynion, a spokeswoman for Maimonides, told The Jewish Week, ‘We are bound by federal law (HIPAA) and can neither confirm nor deny the presence of any patient in our hospital.’ This case comes on the heels of revelations that four other infants who had undergone the controversial circumcision rite of metzitzah b’peh were treated for neonatal herpes, two in Rockland County in 2009 and two more recently in New Jersey.”
The secular Jewish media can always be counted upon to be at the forefront of the anti-bris milah effort. They never miss a chance to paint our customs and rituals as archaic, dangerous and law-breaking. They love it. They relish it.
But yesterday, a three-week-old baby – seemingly the baby that was claimed to have supposedly contracted neonatal herpes at Maimonides Hospital through metzitzah b’peh – tested negative for herpes.
I’ve been searching the internet for the secular Jewish media’s updated report on this story. Nothing doing. Strange how quick some people were to report what seemed to be something that fit their agenda, but they were asleep at the wheel when it emerged that the baby’s rash, which first appeared to be a herpes infection, produced a negative result for herpes after a battery of tests, including spinal, blood and urine. Physicians say that baby might just have a severe rash or some form of infection.
But don’t worry. The “rabbis” who instigated the tumult seven years ago and are back at it now won’t allow this “inconvenient revelation” to slow them down. They are walking lockstep with the secular media and their cohorts in the “health” community to go after bris milah as it has been practiced for centuries.
As Dr. Berman pointed out in his treatise, there is a strong feeling in the Jewish community that this government attack on metzitzah b’peh is a disguised attack on bris milah and more generally on Jewish ritual. For those who say, “That is ridiculous,” look no further then the ballot in San Francisco this year which had an item for the citizens of San Francisco to vote on whether to outlaw bris milah altogether.
We can sit back, as almost everyone did – with one or two exceptions – last time, and allow some “rabbis” and others to play Russian Roulette with our sacred practices, or we can awaken from our slumber and, instead of being on the defensive, go on the offensive to protect our religious practices.
The time is now.
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