NYC to ban mohels if children they treated found to have herpes

NYC health dept. says it will now ban mohels automatically if child has herpes- without testing the source of the infection.


Preparing for circumcision
Preparing for circumcision
Flash 90

New York City’s health department said it will ban mohels automatically from performing circumcisions in the case of a herpes infection in any infant they circumcized using oral methods.

Mohel is Hebrew for a person, often a rabbi, who is trained to perform nonmedical circumcision on boys according to the laws of the Jewish faith. Some mohels, particularly in the haredi community, draw blood from the circumcision wound in a procedure known as metzitzah b’peh, or oral suction, rather than a pipette. This custom is thought responsible for giving several infants herpes.

In reaction to this, the NYC Health Department has decided to make a rule under which “every time there is a mohel who performed metzitzah b’peh on an infant who contracts HSV-1, the mohel will be served automatically with Commissioner’s orders banning him from performing the ritual,” The New York Jewish Week reported this yesterday, quoting city officials. HSV-1 is a type of herpes.

The Health Department will now ban mohels linked to newborn herpes cases without testing the mohel himself for the virus, the newspaper reported, whereas previously such a ban would be issued only pending tests both of the mohel and the baby.

The adoption of the new rule came one day after the city’s health commissioner confirmed that two mohels have been banned from practicing metzitzah b’peh

Under both the previous policy and the new one, the city is relying on the mohels to self-enforce. A city spokeswoman told the Jewish Week that privacy rules prevent health officials from releasing the names of banned mohels. Banned mohels will be hit with a $2,000 fine if they don’t comply with the ban.

Rabbi Levi Y. Heber, a prominent Crown Heights mohel, said the new policy “is what some would call a witch hunt or a modern-day blood libel,” the Jewish Week reported. But critics of the oral method in question said it would help protect infants from the risks it carried, by discouraging mohels from performing it.

Many mohels use a sterilized pipette to draw a small amount of blood from the circumcision wound. Removing the blood is an integral part of the halakha regarding the ritual which symbolizes becoming part of the Covenant of Israel, and acts to cleanse the wound and prevent infection.