Controversial circumcision ritual spreads herpes

While there are several pros and cons to weigh in the decision to circumcise, most would agree that the traditional oral method is not a remotely sterile way to perform such an operation.

Two more babies stricken with herpes after controversial oral circumcision practice | Science Recorder.

Two more babies in New York City’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have been stricken with herpes following a controversial ritual circumcision practice, reports ABC News.

During this ritual, the mohel gathers a mouthful of wine and then orally sucks the boy’s penis to cleanse the wound following circumcision.

While proponents of the controversial practice say that it prevents infection, opponents of metzitzah b’peh argue that it can lead to cases of herpes virus in young boys.

According to ABC News, one of the two babies stricken with herpes had a lesion develop on his scrotum seven days after the circumcision ritual. The health department confirmed that the tests for HSV-1 were positive.

ABC News reports that since the start of the new millennium, there have been 13 cases of herpes linked to the ritual, including two deaths.

The religious practice that dates back to more than 5,000 years defies warning by the city’s department of health which says there is no safe way to perform the oral suction on an open wound. More modern Jewish practices use a sterile aspiration device to clean the wound or a pipette opposed to the oral sucking. But some rabbis stand grounded behind the practice, calling it a religious freedom while noting its long history.

In September the department voted to require parents to sign forms consenting to the risks of the practice after the death of two children who contracted the virus through the practice. The parents of those newly infected boys are said to have not signed those forms.

According to Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of the Orthodox Jewish organization Agudath Israel of America, two-thirds of boys born in New York City’s Hasidic communities are circumcised in the oral suction matter.

The health department claims they’ve had complaints in past by parents who say they weren’t made aware that the oral practice would be performed on their child.

According to a post from Science-Based Medicine in 2008, “risks are minimal if the procedure is done under sterile conditions by an experienced operator. ” Surgical practices have come a long way in 5,000 years, and a great deal of harm can be dealt when those advances are ignored.

Tip: @thePsoop

  8 comments for “Controversial circumcision ritual spreads herpes

  1. Chris Howard
    April 8, 2013 at 1:40 AM

    Ummm?! Seriously! WTF?! It’s a religious tradition daring back some 5,000 years, therefore it’s not pedophilia.

  2. Rupert
    April 8, 2013 at 3:25 AM

    Female circumcision illegal, male circumcision legal. Discuss….

  3. April 8, 2013 at 6:45 AM

    I don’t think anyone knows the original reason for male circumcision. Historians say it was first recorded in the Egyptian civilization less than four and a half thousand years ago.

  4. Mr. Shreck
    April 8, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    Chris Howard, while it may seem strange to the unobservant (disclosure: that includes me) strictly speaking it is no more pedophilia than manual genital contact in a surgeon’s office. It is only pedophilia if the mohel gets a sexual charge out of it / pursues the practice for sexual gratification.

  5. Chris Howard
    April 8, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Yes, and I’m sure a pedophile wouldn’t dream of becoming a mohel/catholic priest/scout master in order to have greater access to their victims.

    Sorry, I don’t buy the “But its a beautiful tradition…” cultural relativistic rationale.
    The problem with “evil” (for lack of a better word) is that it is mundane, not glaringly apparent.

    People willingly accept and practice immoral, or unethical acts uncritically because they don’t believe that what they are doing is harmful/evil.

    As to pedophilia, I worked for six years with gang members, drug addicts, and mainly adjudicated juvenile sex offenders in a treatment center in Austin.

    Every single perp went to church on Sunday and had a very well reasoned excuse as to why they molested another child.

    Some got sexual gratification from it, some a thrill from the inflicting of abuse, some felt obliged to perpetrate, because it had happened to them, and they felt that sexual assault was a right of passage that they needed to pass along onto the next generation.

    In other words, within one generation the act of abuse was being rationalized as a tradition. The only difference is that history tends to give horrific acts, and horrific people a pedigree, but the underlying idiocy, and cruelty are all the same.

  6. April 8, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Can anyone answer the question, why did male circumcision start in the first place? I’m not sure if it had anything to do with ‘abuse’, although I’m sure that goes back long before 4,500 years ago.

  7. April 8, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Making it a taboo to compare male with female sexual mutilation is the biggest scandal of the controversy. In both instances the most sensitive and most erogenous zone of the human body is amputated and severely damaged. In both instances, what counts primarily is the cutting of human sexuality. The imposition of control by the patriarchy. A good look at a book on embryology will show the development of the nerves and tissue and how they are the same.

    What is lacking in all the talk about circumcision is discussion of its archeological dimension – that it is the left over of human sacrifice. What kind of god is it that demands that of an infant? If the Bris constitutes the identity of the male, what about the identity of a Jewish girl? Or is this an entirely homosexual ceremony?

    Also, unfortunately it is / has been circumcision that has MADE for no end of anti-semitic sentiments. Freud found that it was the chief reason for unconscious anti-Semitism. And the myths surrounding it are at the core of the “blood libel.” Thus, it’s time to eliminate the Brit Milah because if that is the chief reason for being anti-Semitic or anti-Abrahamic [Islam too practices the rite] then why hang on to this left-over of human sacrifice? that traumatizes the child, cutting off 5,000 nerves, that is the equivalent of female circumcision in the sense that it eliminates everything but the clitoris,and only serves the Ultra Orthodox to maintain their power? After all, reform Judaism sought to eliminate the rite in the 19th century, and Jewish identity depends on being born by a Jewish mother, or converting. Here a link to an archive of the entire German and then some debate, note especially Michael Wolffsohn’s two pieces . Circumcision has been controversial also within Jewry forever.

  8. April 8, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    In my opinion, this is a human rights issue. Those arguing for the right to circumcise children do so from a parental rights point of view. Even if they argue that they do so out of concern (medical or religious) for their child, it is still an argument from the parent’s perspective. As far as I know, the science on the health benefits for male mutilation (there are non for female mutilation) is inconclusive. The Canadian Paediatric Society is coming out soon with a new position on male circumcision which will take a neutral position on the benefits and harms. see:


    Although the U.S. (because of the parental rights issue) and Somalia (a broken state) are the only countries in the world not to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, that Convention still does not protect children from barbaric circumcision in countries that have ratified it, like Canada. The problem is that societies and people in general do not take the perspectives of children seriously. Yet those children become adults one day, so denying them their human rights as children can result in the denial of their rights as adults, causing permanent harm. see:

    Respecting a Child’s Point of View

    here is my archive of news articles on the subject:

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