NEW YORK – The New York City Board of Health is scheduled to vote this week on requiring parental consent for mohalim to engage in the controversial practice of m'tzitzah b’peh, or direct oral suction, during a b'rit milah. The Rabbinical Assembly applauds the continued concern shown by New York City Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, regarding his call to require informed parental consent in order to utilize this practice, which is not required by Jewish tradition, is not practiced by the overwhelming majority of Jews, and for which safer alternatives exist.
Gerald Skolnik, President of the Rabbinical Assembly and rabbi of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens, stated, “This practice, which is not required by Jewish law, and emanates from older practices designed to prevent illnesses that precede current medical knowledge about disease, presents a serious health risk to babies and is inconsistent with the Jewish tradition’s preeminent concern with human life and health. There have been tragic incidents of babies becoming ill as a result of this practice, and we encourage the Board of Health to require parental consent.”
In addressing the Rabbinical Assembly’s ongoing commitment to b'rit milah, the practice of circumcising males, generally as infants, Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly, stated, “We are entirely committed to the practice of b'rit milah (ritual circumcision), an affirmation of our connection to God and Jewish people for more than 3,000 years, and we affirm its centrality to Jewish religious and communal life worldwide. This ritual has been deemed safe by numerous medical authorities when performed by a trained mohel or medical professional, and recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics affirmed the health benefits of the procedure. It is crucial that the practice be conducted – as it overwhelmingly is – by methods which are safe and sanitary.”