Report: N.Y. mohel apparently tested positive for herpes


(JTA) — A New York mohel who performed the circumcision of one newborn who died of herpes and of three other infants who contracted the disease apparently tested positive for herpes, The New York Jewish Week reported.

Yitzchok Fischer, who was ordered in 2007 to stop the circumcision ritual of metzitzah b’peh, in which the mohel orally suctions blood from the circumcision wound, refused, however, to submit to a DNA test to determine if he is a match to the viruses found in the babies.

The Jewish Week reported April 6 that a copy of the 2007 New York State Department of Health order obtained by the newspaper through a Freedom of Information Law request said that he tested positive for an infection that he was "capable of communicating to others."

The department redacted the order to protect Fischer’s privacy, as required by law, and does not specifically mention herpes. But according to the newspaper, "both the context of the order and the facts surrounding Fischer’s case strongly suggest that the infection for which, according to the order, he tested positive is herpes."

The order also describes the investigation carried out by the New York City Department of Health in the wake of three infections linked to Fischer in 2003 and 2004, The Jewish Week reported.

Several weeks ago, The Jewish Week wrote that it had obtained a tape recording indicating that Fischer may have continued to perform metzitzah b’peh after the order to desist was issued. Asked several weeks ago whether the state Department of Health would investigate Fischer in connection with a possible violation of the 2007 order, department spokesman Mike Moran would not comment.

The city health department has issued a warning against the practice. Haredi Orthodox leaders condemned the warning as an unnecessary and unwelcome government intrusion into their community’s religious practices.

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