Wilder Fleming filed the following report:
Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded this morning to city rabbis’ threats of legal action if the city goes through with a proposal to restrict a controversial Orthodox Jewish circumcision practice.
“We have an obligation to keep people alive and safe and the courts have held that up repeatedly,” Bloomberg said today at a press conference outside the City Clerk’s office.
His comments came in response to Orthodox rabbis, who defended the practice of “metzitzah b’peh” yesterday at a New York City Health Department public hearing.
In “metzitzah b’peh,” a mohel uses his mouth to suck blood from the circumcision wound, a ritual that has led to the transmission of herpes to some infants, in a few cases leading to their deaths.
Rabbi and mohel A. Romi Cohn defended the practice yesterday, saying rabbinical law guidelines are “much stricter than the medical profession,” even as he admitted that some people who haven’t undergone training as required by rabbinical law will pose as mohels in order to make money, a practice which he strongly condemned.
The Bloomberg administration strongly opposes the practice.
“There are certain practices that doctors say are not safe and we will not permit those practices to the extent that we can stop them,” Bloomberg said. “You don’t have a right to put any child’s life in danger, and this clearly does.”
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