I’ve written about metzitzah b’peh circumcisions more than once. The procedure involves the Orthodox-Jewish mohel putting his mouth on the infant’s freshly-circumcised penis and sucking away the blood. Metzitzah b’pehs have resulted in babies ending up with communicable diseases like hepatitis. We know of two cases in which the infant died and others where irreversible brain damage occurred.
In New York, with its Orthodox communities in which these dangerously unhygienic circumcisions are still rife, the city’s heath authorities have done nothing to rein in the practice, other than to require the parents to sign a consent form acknowledging that they’re aware of the risks.
But even that inadequate measure is going too far for some mohels. One of them is Rabbi Avrohom Cohn, 85, the chairman of the American Board of Ritual Circumcision. Cohn is one of the top baby-penis-cutters in the region, and he says he doesn’t need no steenking permission, the Jewish publication The Forward writes:
After cutting off the infant’s foreskin, Rabbi Avrohom Cohn leaned down toward the baby boy who was cradled on a white pillow atop his grandfather’s knee.
Standing fully over the child, with his back to the dozens of immaculately dressed guests at the Syrian Jewish gathering in Brooklyn, it was impossible to see what Cohn did next.
Asked after the ceremony whether he performed the controversial rite metzitzah b’peh, also known as MBP, in which a ritual circumciser places his mouth on the baby’s genitals to suction blood from the circumcision wound, Cohn smiled and said, “I did what I had to do.”
If Cohn performed MBP without getting written consent from the infant’s parents, he broke the law.
Which is something he’s been making a habit of.
For more than a year, ritual circumcisers, known as mohels, have been required to obtain written consent from parents before performing MBP.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene instituted the regulation in the fall of 2012 after a number of babies contracted herpes following MBP.
The department says that 14 infants have been infected in New York City since 2000. Two of those babies died, and at least two others suffered brain damage.
But Cohn, who performs MBP regularly, says he has never obtained consent from a parent, and he never will. “I don’t believe in it,” Cohn said of the consent form.…
Cohn said that the city’s claims that MBP causes herpes are a “blood libel” and that he will never obtain written consent before performing MBP.
To make this story even more remarkable, Cohn believes that he‘s the one who’s suffering the real medical risk. Now that’s chutzpah.
Cohn said the risk he feared was that the infant of a couple who are “not strictly observant” might transmit a disease to him via MBP — and that he could then transmit that disease to another infant. “They could be drug users, they could be going to prostitutes and who knows what, and are infected with all kinds of diseases,” Cohn said, referring to nonobservant parents.
I’d say this man’s behavior amounts to reckless endangerment and possibly other charges that ought to be sufficient grounds for arrest.
Whether a New York prosecutor has the political courage to pursue Rabbi Cohn is whole different matter.
(Image via Shutterstock)