Flawed Penn Haredi Circumcision Study Comes Under Fire As Agudah Court Brief Lies
The two Penn Med Center for Evidence-based Practice members who did the study cited by haredi umbrella organization Agudath Israel of America in a court filing in support of its claim that there is no valid statistical information to back NYC's claims about metzitzah b'peh (the direct mouth-to-bleeding-penis sucking done by many haredi mohels after removing the baby's foreskin), are both Orthodox Jews themselves. In fact, one is closely affiliated with the haredi Philadelphia Kollel.
In case you missed my exclusive report Friday afternoon, the two Penn Med Center for Evidence-based Practice members who did that study cited by haredi umbrella organization Agudath Israel of America in a court filing in support of its claim that there is no valid statistical information to back NYC's claims about metzitzah b'peh (the direct mouth-to-bleeding-penis sucking done by many haredi mohels after removing the baby's foreskin), are both Orthodox Jews themselves. In fact, one is closely affiliated with the haredi Philadelphia Kollel.
Not only that, the study is an internal practice review, was never published, is not peer reviewed and apparently was done in response to a request from Agudath Israel of America or one of their supporters.
And these two professionals – one an internist with no significant neonatal infectious disease experience and the other health policy researcher who is not a physician or an epidemiologist – did not declare their obvious conflict of interest.
Penn refused to release the study to me and to at least one other journalist who asked for it, and even physicians and researchers have been unable to get it.
But without going into details on how this happened, I was able to get a copy of the study – which is very flawed for the reasons I listed above and because it downplays the issue of lack of cooperation from families of HSV-1 infected Jewish babies and it completely fails to deal with the lack of cooperation from haredi rabbis and mohels.
(If you are required to cook one hot dog for each person occupying your back yard otherwise some of them could possible die or become ill, but no one will admit anyone is actually back there, your windows are all blacked out, your doors are boarded shut, and your house has been enclosed in a cone of silence, you're going to have a hard time cooking the correct number of hot dogs – but that wouldn't be your fault, would it? Agudah, Satmar and the other haredi groups boarded up your doors, blacked out your windows, covered your house in a cone of silence and refused to tell you how many people are in your backyard – and now they want a court to blame you for not knowing the precise number.)
You can read Penn Med's response to my questions about this and see the study itself here.
But Agudath Israel's misuse of a study it calls "independent" is truly atrocious and its lies about teh history of metzitzah b'peh-transmitted illnesses is even worse, as you can see from this small section from its appeals brief:
…One of the essential steps of the bris milah is metzitzah, during which suction is used to draw blood from the area around the wound. See Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, at 133b. Traditionally, metzitzah is performed using oral suction, in a technique known as metzitzah b’peh (“MBP”). Many prominent rabbinic authorities maintain that MBP is the proper, or even the only acceptable, way to fulfill the religious obligation. See SA 6-8.…
Lets be clear. These are lies Agudath Israel of America told to a Federal Court judge.
The Talmud makes it clear that that MBP is done for health reasons. Therefore, Jewish law should hold that MBP should not be done today because there is a large amount of evidence that it kills and maims babies – facts Agudah omits from its brief.
Past those lies of omission, Agudah also lied outright:
…MBP is performed around the world, and has been safely practiced for millenia. Mohelim are carefully trained to ensure that MBP is performed in a safe manner. Among other precautions, mohelim do not perform circumcisions if they are exhibiting any symptoms of the herpes virus, such as cold sores; they minimize the duration of the contact, so that it lasts only approximately one second; and they generally precede the procedure by rinsing their mouths with an antiseptic, which in the case of mouthwash has been shown to eliminate the herpes virus in the saliva even of individuals exhibiting symptoms of a herpes infection. See SA 6-7 & 9 n.2; see also JA 19 (Berman Aff. ¶ 20).…
Every statement in this small paragraph is either a lie of omission or an outright lie, starting with the fact that there is no organization that regulates mohels or supervises what they do. Some pick their noses and suck their fingers seconds before removing babies' foreskins; others wear gloves and have autoclaves to sterilize their instruments.
But the biggest lie is that "MBP…has been safely practiced for millenia."
In fact, rabbinic literature and secular accounts are full of examples of MBP killing babies. Here is a sample from the 135 years before penicillin became widely available. Please click to enlarge:
Agudath Israel of America's entire appeals brief that contans the above lies and the repeated misuse of the Penn Med study as a PDF file: