February 2, 2005

When Choosing A Mohel, "Caring" Isn't Enough

Three cases have been identified--including one twin who died--where baby boys in New York City contracted herpes shortly after being circumcised by Rabbi Yitzhok Fischer.

"Under Jewish law, a mohel -- someone who performs circumcisions -- draws blood from the circumcision wound. Most mohels do it by hand, but Fischer uses a rare practice where he uses his mouth."

Notes Fischer's lawyer, "'My client is known internationally as a caring, skilled, and conscientious mohel.'" Maybe yesterday counsellor. Now he's known internationally as the guy who gives 8-day-old babies a hummer and herpes.

Maybe it's just me, but except for "I'm so excited! This is my first one!", "I use my mouth" is the last thing I want to hear from a mohel.

Officials fear babies contracted herpes during circumcisions [cnn.com, via fark]

[update: Be sure to check out Ben's comment below; it has that some of that rare thing, actual facts about infant herpes. Check for more posts on this, too.]


Cultural relativism be damned. That is just some fucked up shit.

Oh my God.

I can't even imagine how the parents must feel.

I just recently heard of this practice and I am quite puzzled by it. I recently had my son Simon circumsized by a Mohel/Pediatrician and she told me this story via a joke. I was shocked to hear this but didn't find it so surprising. First off, i have never read anything in the Torah about this practice. Second, all my friends who have had their boys circumsized have not experienced this. Third, I have never heard this story from any religious Jews that I know. That being said, WTF is up with that Mohel?

1) no kidding. I'd never ever heard of it, of course it might not be something the mohels tell their Gentile clients (which we are not; clients, that is. We are Gentiles, but would definitely go to a mohel, if we ever had reason to decide we needed one. Oh, and in Mormon parlance, everyone else is a Gentile, even Jews, but that's a bit of a digression...)
2) I think you mean G-d, Moxie
3) and I think you mean f(*&^(*&['ed up s*^%(, Cam. None of that should-I-breastfeed-or-not language in here, please

GREG.. whoops... I forgot that we weren't discussing something really important.

yeah, just knives to penises here. nothing major.


What a wretched practice.
What a wretched outcome.

Seriously, where does this whole idea of cir*umcision come from? Utterly vile thing to do.

Need we talk about the botched jobs? As there are many.......whats wrong with the way god made ya'll? Hmmm, this is a slippery slope towards another argument about breastfeeding isn't it!?

When I told my husband this story (after reading it here on DaddyTypes!) his comment: "That cock-sucker needs some Mohel-practice Insurance." Heh.

This story is merely the sensational result of a desire to pathologize religion. Millions of circumcisions have been performed in this way for thousands of years. Complications are very rare. The statistics would stand favorably next to any other medical procedure.

It is my understanding, that in this case, a rash was noticed by the mohel and the pediatrician was asked if the babies were healthy enough to undergo circumcision and that a positive reply was given. If that is so, then the babies had herpes before the circumcision.

The most likely way that infants get HSV-1 is during vaginal delivery. . Intranatal infection accounts for the majority of infected infants and occurs from passage of the infant through an infected birth canal. Seventy-five to 90% of infants with neonatal HSV are born to asymptomatic mothers who have no history of HSV infection. If the mother has recently contracted herpes and seroconversion has not yet ocurred, the likelihood of passing infections to the babies is astoundingly high, about 33%. The symptoms are very tricky to detect and because of this many babies die because antiviral treatment specific for herpes is delayed until it is too late.

If that is the case, as seems likely, then this is just the doctor and the health department using the Rabbi as a convenient scapegoat. Many people have their babies circumcised in the hospital by doctors. This is an extremely painful and lengthy procedure sometimes lasting the better part of an hour. In contrast, a mohel does it in a few seconds and it is completely bandaged and dressed within 2 minutes. I know of non-Jews who have requested that a mohel circumcise their child instead of a doctor just for that reason.

This is a custom Jews have been doing for 3500 years and it has not seemed to have hurt them any.

For those who are concerned about horrible things people do to their bodies how about investigating the piercing and tattoo parlors that are spreading Hepatitis-C like wildfire? I hope that those who want to put the Rabbi in prison are also as outraged about the addicted mothers who produce crack-babies. Of course, you all oppose sucking the brains out of an otherwise healthy baby-to-be in a partial-birth abortion, as well--right?

Somehow, aborting millions of otherwise healty fetuses is simply a "mother's right to choose," and creating and killing fetuses for stem cells is called "research," but loving Jewish parents who circumcise their children are thought of as barbaric. This religious ritual is one of the healthiest practices around. It's the "normal" daily activities of some of the pathetic secular morons who make up this society that are truly barbaric.

For more info on neonatal herpes go to http://www.emedicine.com/med/topic3554.htm

Your pal,


I just wanted to tell everyone that I used this Mohel to circumcise both my sons. He is a fabulous Mohel so much so that when I went to the Doctor for a two week well care visit the Doctor told me what a wonderful job he had performed. Everything took place under the most sanitary conditions. I think before we jump to conclusion we should find out what the results of the tests are. I for one would use Rabbi Fischer again if we have another son without the slightest hesitation and believe me my children are my most precious possessions.

Don't misconstrue my questions about circumcision as an aspersion against the Jewish faith.
It wasn't that long ago that all male children born in mainstream North American hospitals were circumcised as a matter of course regardless of faith. My own husband, born in Montreal and Catholic was circumcized by a mohel. This practice has changed, and I for one am happy about it. Its quite a task to have a hospitalized circumcision of your male children in a Canadian hospital these days, and there are many hoops that require jumping through as well as a cost.
We cannot compare apples to oranges in this case, as with the example of abortion or stem cell research. Let me instead compare it to the thousands of young women in the third world (although, there are documented cases of its occurrence in North America among the communities accustomed to practicing) who are ritualistically mutilated when their external genetalia are shaved off as a part of their faith.

Mine was not a condemnation of the practice in general, but rather a strongly worded question about why this need occur at all. Perhaps educating me about its roots in the Jewish faith would be a good start and then I could comment about why I would continue to disagree or agree with its practice. No one was questioning the loving parentliness of the Jewish people.

Your points and candour are well and good if you feel strongly about this issue, and I would hope equal respect for my own opinions is practiced.

As a "loving Jewish parent" who did not have his sons circumcised, I feel strongly that criticizing circumcision need not be an attack on religion in general or Judaism in particular. At the same time, the fact that a practice has existed for a long time does not exempt it from challenge on medical or moral grounds.

My sense is that the evidence on infant male circumcision points to some (small) risks and some (small) benefits. In my view, therefore, reasonable people could choose to have or not have the procedure for their baby. At the same time, I could imagine that a person who was in fact quite sensitive to the value of religion might still find the cutting of an infant to be morally unacceptable, or that medical science might one day convince us that the procedure is medically indefensible.

Ben's comparisons to a variety of other issues seems completely irrelevant. I'm pro-choice, and I think giving tatoos with dirty instruments and smoking crack when you're pregnant are bad ideas, but I really can't imagine what any of that has to do with circumcision.

I'm not sure that we need to go down the 'circumcise or not to' path here - if the Rabbi had herpes and passed it on to the children because of the way he circ'ed - I think we can all agree that he is in the wrong. You just don't put your mouth on an open wound if you have an incurable virus. If he doesn't have herpes - then there is another explanation. Either way - whether you use a mohel or a doctor - if you choose to circ (and I acknowledge that many people disagree with that choice - but it's not the point here) there are better ways to do it than to draw blood with your mouth.

I haven't read anything that has described the use of the mohel's mouth to draw blood as anything other than 'rare.' There are better ways to get it done.

With a brother named TOR, I will defer!

This story is being blown way out of proportion by the media and the anti-circumcision movement. The odds are great that this baby did not receive herpes from the mohel, although that is a distinct possibility.

Contrary to what you hear in the media and see on the Internet, the latest scientific evidence strongly favors circumcision (for non-Jews)and would even save millions of lives in Africa and Asia by reducing HIV/AIDS infections. In fact, the the oral technique (metzitzah b'peh) was a medical necessity until modern medical discoveries. No it is not in the written Toah, but it is in the Talmud.

If you want to read the best analysis of this circumcision technique and the relationship between AIDS & circumcision, read the article, "Life or Death", at www.towardtradition.org.

Stuff happens, but we can't fight the national customs. All we can do is to ensure the high level of aseptics when performing circumcisions and other kinds of surgery.
Sincerely, Herpes Woman

The 'sucking' aspect, well at least that one part of the rite that also sucks, pun, IS in the talmud and is still regularly practiced by mohels. All Dads need to read how many people have been seriously hurt by circumcision and to see the photos for themselves on the link below. Talmudic references are provided there. Find out why for medical reasons genital mutilation should be abolished globally.

Trivia: Christianity was accepted as a Jewish sect for 14 years until controversy erupted after gentiles became proselytes without circumcision as a sign of the new covenant with Israel. Good news is that God performs a new circumcision, not on the flesh, but on human hearts (motives)as a sign of a proselyte coming into the New covenant with Him. Having one's genitals mutilated will not make one a just and honest person. But I digressed from my first point shown from the site:(warning, graphic photos)
www dot sexuallymutilatedchild dot org/mohel.htm

[I guess the .com was taken? I broke the link but left the URL. People can go, but I'm not going to contribute my siteranking to that site. The Christian vs Jew tone here and more importantly, on the website, strikes me as manipulative and anti-Semitic. Forget the foreskin; when I hear someone argue, "Because scientifically speaking, Jews are bloodsucking homos," it makes me want to take a knife to his vas deferens. -ed.]

Now in 2012, another child has died from herpes from their mohel and Fischer is still practicing, despite a ban from the New York Department of Health.

Do not circumcise your children. It is NOT safe!


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