Oral suction circumcision is a practice many non-Jewish readers may be unfamiliar with, but if you’re located in New York City, then you’ve probably heard about the fight brewing between city officials and practicing rabbis.
In the procedure, the rabbi uses a scalpel to perform traditional circumcision to the child’s genitalia, then leans down and sucks blood from the wound as prayers in the traditional Hebrew language are chanted. The practice has been around for thousands of years, but recent cases of infant herpes are causing NYC officials to reconsider it.
In a new report from the Associated Press, the practice was linked to 17 cases of infant herpes since 2000, with two deaths and two others suffering brain damage. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is negotiating with a group of rabbis on how to best protect children through traditional Jewish rituals while preserving freedom of religion.
“The talks are ongoing but I cannot go into particulars,” said Avi Fink, the de Blasio’s deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, a leader on the talks. “Our goal is to achieve awareness of the risks.”
New York City is home to the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, the AP notes, with more than a million Jews. Three thousand babies are circumcised using the oral suction circumcision method. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised against the practice in 2012, noting that it increased herpes risk of infection in baby boys “by 3.4 times that of other male newborns.”
While health officials are more concerned with infant herpes transmission through the practice, at least one rabbi believes the cases are completely unrelated to the practice.
Rabbi A. Romi Cohn, 85, said that he doubts the two are related and blamed “the mother or another source” for the children having contracted the virus.
“They’re wild accusations without any basis,” Cohn said. “I’ve done 35,000 circumcisions and never had an infection, of any kind.”
He added that circumcision is like any medical procedure and comes with its share of risks, and that the procedures are done with the voluntary participation of parents.
The Inquisitr first shared this practice in a January article.
At that time, New York rabbis were vehemently protesting the conclusions of the health department that the procedure and the herpes were related, claiming there was no proof, but the pathogenesis of the herpes infection identified by the doctors who diagnosed and treated one of the infants argues against the rabbis.
The timeline was consistent with the post circumcision ritual blamed for the potentially fatal infection.
Do you think — parental permission or not — that the oral suction circumcision procedure, which involves contact of the mohel’s mouth on the child’s genitalia, should be banned? Sound off in the comments section.