In response to the AIDS crisis, Rabbi Yonoson Binyomin Goldberger, a Bobov hasid and mohel living in Borough Park, Brooklyn, wrote a book in the late 1980s defending metzitzah b'peh (MBP), the direct oral-to-genital sucking done by the mohel to the baby's bleeding circumcision wound. The book drew on a proclamation by leading haredi rabbis instructing Jews to continue to do MBP despite medical claims that it was unsafe to do so. Failed Messiah has learned that Goldberger later was forced to stop doing MBP after he infected two infants with the Herpes virus.
Goldberger's book was translated into English and published by Feldheim in 1991 under the title "Sanctity and Science: Insights into the Practice of Milah & Metzitzah." It is chock full of circular reasoning, arguments made from pre-existing conclusions (we know MBP is safe because our holy rabbis say it is, therefore doctors who oppose it must be wrong, etc.), and really bad science (much of it done circa 1906).
A decade after the English edition was first published, Goldberger allegedly transmitted Herpes to two infants through MBP and was identified to the Department of Health.
He quietly stopped doing MBP himself. Later, he stopped doing circumcisions altogether after becoming to ill (with an unrelated illness) to do the procedure safely.
Even so, neither Goldberger or Feldheim recalled Goldberger's atrocious book or warned the public about it.
I've known this for several weeks but struggled with what to do with the information because my sources – including a source in Goldberger's own community – refused to go on the record because they feared reprisals from haredi leaders.
In the end, I decided the information is too important to suppress. You can take it or leave it as you see fit.
23 years ago yesterday, the leading haredi rabbis in North America, the leaders of Agudath Israel of America, of Satmar, of Vizhnitz, of Bobov, and of the Lithuanian yeshivas – including Avrohom Pam, Elya Svei, Menashe Klein, Mordechai Hagar (the Vizhnitzer Rebbe), Mordechai Gifter, Moshe Teitelbaum (the Satmar Rebbe), Moshe Stern, Ezriel Leibovics, Reuven Feinstein, Shlomo Halberstam (the Bobover Rebbe), and Shmuel Berenbaum – along with the leading haredi rabbis in Israel and the leading haredi rabbis in Europe signed a proclamation mandating that MBP continue unaltered unless there was a "suspicion of disease over the infant." If that suspicion exists an "expert rabbi" should then be consulted – meaning that if there is a suspicion that the baby carries a communicable disease, a senior rabbi should decide whether MBP should be done. The proclamation says nothing about a mohel carrying disease and transmitting it to an otherwise healthy baby through MBP.
Babies died and were maimed because of what these rabbis ruled, because of what Goldberger wrote and did, and because of Feldheim – and none of them who are still living has apologized for those errors or done anything to warn the public about them.