Sandy Postpones 'Metziaza Be'Peh' Hearing

Manhattan court postpones hearing against new requirement that parents sign a consent form before brit procedure.

David Lev ,

Photo: Yad L'Achim

A Manhattan court has postponed a hearing against the new requirement that parents whose children undergo ritual Jewish circumcision in New York City sign a consent form before the “metzizah be'peh” aspect of the Jewish bris ceremony can be performed. The hearing, part of an action brought by rabbinical groups agains the requirement, was delayed last weekend, the court said, because Hurricane Sandy has caused a backlog of cases, and the courts must dispose of old cases before starting new hearings. As a result, an injunction against the enactment of the consent rule has been extended.

The New York Board of Health and Mental Hygiene in September approved the regulation, aimed at the practice that many (but not all) Orthodox Jews adhere to. During the metzitzah b’peh ritual, a mohel (circumcisor, ed.) uses oral suction so that a small amount of fresh blood flows from and cleanses the wound after removal of the foreskin. According to the City, at least 11 infants are thought to have contracted herpes from the practice, two of whom died and two of whom have irreversible brain damage. The requirement has been bitterly opposed by some Orthodox groups, who accused the city of spreading “lies” and “blood libels” as justification for enacting an “evil decree” against “an ancient and holy custom, ” because one mohel turned out to be a herpes carrier.

The court several weeks ago issued an injunction against the regulation until those opposing the requirement had their day in court. As a result of the Sandy-related delay, the injunction has been extended. The regulation had been scheduled to go into effect on September 30.

Attorneys for both sides said that it would likely be months before the hearing could take place; at least two courthouses in Manhattan were badly flooded during the hurricane, and that the court calendar has been severely impacted. Many cases, especially those in which injunctions have been issued, are likely to be kept on hold for months, as the now-hampered court system attempts to work its way through the backlog.