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New York City Orthodox Jews Furious Over Circumcision Rule

Groups sue Board of Health to overturn regulation.

By: Syd Keeb
Published: October 11th, 2012 in Health » World

When the New York City Board of Health unanimously adopted a rule requiring parental consent for a ritual surrounding circumcision involving the mohel – an individual that performs circumcision - using his mouth to suck the blood from the infant’s penis, the orthodox community was up in arms.

Claiming that the rule is unconstitutional and violates Jews’ religious freedom the Orthodox groups are suing New York City attempting to stop the regulation.

This circumcision ritual is traditional for many in the Ultra orthodox community living in New York. However, as many as 11 babies were diagnosed with genital herpes after the ritual was practiced during their circumcision between 2004 and 2011 with two of the children succumbing to the disease and two others suffering brain damage.

The new rule now requires parents to sign a form which advises them about the risks of their child contracting herpes through the oral suction ritual.

Now the plaintiffs, including the Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada, the International Bris Association and several individual mohelim are fighting back, filing a lawsuit proclaiming that the city’s decision to adopt a new regulation was based on faulty information and bad analysis. They are looking for an injunction to suspend the regulation.

"That opinion is based on limited study, inaccurate assumptions, and deficient data, all of which remain actively debated within medical and scientific communities," the lawsuit states.

But Thomas Farley, the City Health Commissioner, was quick to defend the city’s new rule.

"The city's highest obligation is to protect its children; therefore, it is important that parents know the risks associated with the practice," a statement explained.

Related articles: Circumcision, New York, Ultra Orthodox, Orthodox, Ritual
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