N.Y. newborn contracts herpes from controversial circumcision rite

(JTA) — A newborn in New York contracted herpes from a controversial Jewish ritual circumcision rite.

The baby boy is undergoing treatment for neonatal genital herpes, according to the Forward, contracted through metzitzah b’peh, in which the ritual circumciser places his mouth directly on the child’s circumcision wound to draw blood away from the cut.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a health alert about the baby’s case on Jan. 28. The baby was treated for the genital rash five days after his circumcision.

At least 11 boys contracted herpes from the practice between 2004 and 2011, according to New York City health officials. Two died from the disease and two others suffered brain damage, the officials said.

In September 2013, the city’s Board of Health voted 9-0 to require mohels to obtain signed consent forms from parents; the haredi Orthodox Jewish community opposes the forms. Several months earlier, the city had struck an agreement with city hospitals to distribute pamphlets about the ritual’s dangers to the mothers of newborns.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said shortly after taking office on Jan. 1 that he would leave the signed consent forms in place while looking for a more effective solution, according to the Forward. The haredi Orthodox community had believed de Blasio would do away with the forms.

Metzitzah b’peh is not used in most Jewish circumcision ceremonies, but many in the haredi Orthodox community still adhere to the rite. Many haredi leaders have resisted calls to use alternative approaches.

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