The pamphlet, created by the de Blasio administration, is a glossy but blunt warning about the dangers of metzitzah b’peh, an Orthodox circumcision ritual linked to herpes infections in infants. “Some babies can get sick with herpes, which can lead to death,” the form reads in bold type. “There is no way to avoid the risk.” “Serious misstatements,” Rabbi Niederman said, looking pained, as he read the brochure for the first time. But the rabbi declined to elaborate, telling a reporter that, for now, he wanted only to praise the city for trying to work with Orthodox leaders on the matter.
Above: Rabbi David Niederman
The New York Times has a report on yesterday's Board of Health meeting and its discussion of possibly scrapping the city's informed consent requirement for metzizah b'peh (MBP), the dangerous direct mouth-to-bleeding-penis suction done predominantly by haredi mohels.
MBP has killed and maimed babies, left some with permanent brain damage, sickened others, and in the age before modern antibiotics and anti-viral medication, killed waves of babies, as is documented even in rabbinic literature. Historically, the babies were sickened and died from things like syphilis and herpes. It is the HSV-1 strain of herpes that does the most known damage today.
Despite the clear evidence of MBP's danger, however, many haredi rabbis – most but not all of whom are hasidic – insist on keeping it, even though many Orthodox and haredi rabbis ended MBP in their communities as far back as two centuries ago.
But haredi groups and communities which place fighting against modernity and reformers as a top priority – like, for example, the Satmar hasidic sect, which is insanely powerful in New York City due its large bloc vote – have often chosen to continue MBP and, publicly at least, deny MBP is dangerous.
And without explaining either the theological underpinnings, the political context, the long history of MBP killing children (and here), or the actual science of the issue, the Times opens its report with Satmar hasidic powerbroker Rabbi David Niederman objecting because the city is still insisting MBP is dangerous.
All material in square brackets was added by FailedMessiah.com, most of it to fill in readily available information the Times failed to include in its report, even though all of it is true and documented:
Rabbi David Niederman, an influential Orthodox leader in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sat outside a meeting of the New York City Board of Health on Wednesday, staring at a brochure and frowning.
The pamphlet, created by the de Blasio administration, is a glossy but blunt warning about the dangers of metzitzah b’peh, an Orthodox circumcision ritual linked to herpes infections in infants. “Some babies can get sick with herpes, which can lead to death,” the form reads in bold type. “There is no way to avoid the risk.”
“Serious misstatements,” Rabbi Niederman said, looking pained, as he read the brochure for the first time. But the rabbi declined to elaborate, telling a reporter that, for now, he wanted only to praise the city for trying to work with Orthodox leaders on the matter.…
City officials [say the informed consent requirement for MBP put in place during the Bloomberg Administration doesn’t work] because the [haredi] community felt persecuted by strict secular rules. Instead, Mr. de Blasio, who counts the [ultra-]Orthodox as an important political constituency, is betting that collaboration will be more effective.
[So under de Blasio’s new plan, which the Board of Health still must approve before it can go into effect – something made more likely after de Blasio used the past few weeks to stack the board with his supporters, h]ospitals would be asked, but not required, to distribute English and Yiddish versions of the brochure [ – the brochure Niederman objected to earlier in the Times report]. And although the city has proposed that circumcisers, known as mohels, be tested for herpes if an infant is infected, those tests would not be mandated by law. Instead, City Hall says that Orthodox leaders have pledged to ensure mohels undergo the test; penalties would be enforced by the Orthodox community, not by city law.
[The haredi community reached a similar deal with the city a decade ago, but failed to keep it. That prompted the city to shift to the informed consent requirement. Haredim failed to keep that, as well. And while the informed consent was passed during Bloomberg administration, de Blasio has actually had as much time to try to enforce it as Bloomberg did, but there is no evidence that de Blasio even tried to do so. This isn’t surprising, however, because he promised one of the two large Satmar factions that he would scuttle the informed consent immediately after being elected – in exchange for that Satmar hasidic faction’s bloc votes.]
Some public health leaders are not satisfied with that plan.
“It’s a plausible approach, if it actually occurs,” said Bruce C. Vladeck, a former member of the Board of Health. “[But] what do you intend to do if the community does not live up to its commitments?” Mr. Vladeck, who joined the Board of Health in 2002, was replaced last month by Mr. de Blasio as part of a board shake-up.
At Wednesday’s meeting, however, the current board members said they would be open to change.
“What we’re doing, so well-intended, isn’t working, so we’ve got to find some new approach,” said Pamela S. Brier, the chief executive of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, which has a high number of Orthodox patients.…
Hospitals like the one Brier runs can choose whether or not to hand out the city's warning brochure. Maimonides and other hospitals with large haredi clienteles will likely be put under heavy pressure by haredi rabbis and community leaders who will demand the warning brochure (if it remains as it is now) not be given to haredim. That pressure will be political and economic, and don't be too surprised if a year from now it is reported that Brier – who sits on the Board of Health – is running a hospital which is either not giving out the warning brochure or is taking other steps to appease haredim but which contradict the Board of Health's intent and endanger children.