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Two Jewish Mohels Banned After Babies Contract Herpes From Circumcision Rite

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New York City has reportedly banned two mohels, persons trained to perform ritual circumcisions, after several babies became infected with herpes, Forward reports.

The mohels had performed metzitzah b’peh (MBP), a circumcision rite practiced in some ultra-Orthodox communities that involves using the mouth to remove blood from the recently-cut penis. The practice has been implicated in infant deaths in the past -- including a two-week-old infant in 2011 and another in 2004.

New York City authorities banned the mohel involved in the 2004 death, Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, from performing the ritual, but the health department has not named the two recently-banned mohels.

Though the practice remains legal, the New York City health department implemented new measures in 2012 requiring mohels to receive written parental consent before performing direct oral suctioning. The health department also noted that The New York State Department of Health has documented cases of HSV-1 infection in male babies after MBP circumcisions that have lead to illness, brain damage and in some cases death.

Forward reported that several mohels have been known to violate the city's regulations, and Gothamist suggested that some mohels have continued practicing MBP even after being banned from conducting the rite.

Many mohels do not condone direct oral suctioning in MBP circumcisions, though, including New York mohel Cantor Philip L. Sherman who writes on his website: "Metzitzah can be performed; just the custom of performing it with the mouth (“b’peh”) should be eliminated."

Rabbi Leonard Matanky, president of the Modern Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America, also condemned the practice, telling Forward in an interview:

“I would hope that any mohel who unfortunately has transmitted a disease via metzitzah b’peh would stop practicing metzitzah b’peh because of the safety of our children."

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