Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Law on Circumcision Proposed in NY

June 12, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Reform leaders have sharply attacked a proposed amendment to the New York Public Health Law which, according to the bill’s sponsor, seeks to inform parents of new born children that a circumcision performed by a doctor or other “non-religious practitioner may not satisfy the religious requirements of any faith.”

The amendment is a “violation of the principle of church-state separation and in direct conflict with Jewish law,” according to Rabbi Bernard Zlotowitz, director of the New York Federation of Reform Synagogues. Zlotowitz said Reform leaders have engaged in a state wide effort urging defeat of the measure in the State Assembly Standing Committee, which is scheduled to hear the bill next week.

But the bill’s sponsor, Sheldon Silver (D. Manhattan) claimed that the Reform leaders were taking the bill out of context and that it is not an attempt to discriminate against non-Orthodox mohalim or ritual circumcises, as Zlotowitz has charged. According to Silver, the bill’s purpose is purely “informational.”


The amendment, as proposed before the Committee, reads in part that “no circumcision shall be performed by any non-religious practitioner on any minor without written consent by at least one parent or legal guardian. Such written parental consent shall contain a statement that such circumcision is a purely medical procedure and does not satisfy the religious requirement of any faith. “

Zlotowitz has termed the proposed bill “outrageous,” and said that the “state has no business adopting any legislation defining what may or may not satisfy religious requirements. Such an amendment is clearly unconstitutional and a blatant effort to discredit non-Orthodox Jewish mohalim. And it is in direct conflict with Jewish law which states that ‘anybody may perform a circumcision’.”

Zlotowitz charged that the “true purpose” of the amendment “is to bring the power of the state into play against non-Orthodox mohalim by making it appear that only so called religious practitioners — by which he (Silver) means Orthodox mohalim — may perform circumcisions. ” But Silver told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that he seeks simply to have hospital staff inform parents or guardians that the circumcision is being performed for medical purposes and thus does not come under religious edict.

Recommended from JTA