Williamsburg Families Won’t Identify Mohels After Babies Herpes

The New York City Health Department said it cannot complete an investigation into who it says infected four infants with herpes through a Jewish circumcision rite because the boys’ families will not identify the mohels.

“Unfortunately, some in the community are resistant to sharing the name of the mohels,” Health Department spokesman Christopher Miller told DNAinfo New York on Tuesday. “This is a very insular community.”

According to DNAinfo, six families in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have seen children contract herpes since 2015 from metzitzah b’peh, which involves the ritual circumciser, or mohel, cleaning the circumcision wound by oral suction. Among the six families, only two have provided the names of their mohels, Miller said.

In March, the city ordered those two mohels to stop performing metzitzah b’peh. A herpes infection in a newborn baby can cause brain damage and death.

Rabbi David Niederman, head of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, told DNAinfo that the community was “fully cooperating” with the investigation.

However, an unnamed source said the community is skeptical about the allegations against the two named mohels because it believes the city wants to make all metzitzah b’peh illegal.

“That’s why we’re not willing to give out the mohels. We know the city is going to ban them without giving them due process,” the source said. “There is not proof that they actually infected the baby.”

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    Parents of four Hasidic Jewish children infected with herpes by ritual circumcision will not tell the New York City Department of Health the names of the mohels who did the procedures, according to the agency.

    “Unfortunately, some in the community are resistant to sharing the name of the mohels,” Christopher Miller told DNAInfo. “This is a very insular community. This is a very religious ritual.”

    Herpes was passed to the infants via a rare form of circumcision in which the mohel applies his mouth to the circumcision wound to suction out the blood.

    The Health Department banned two mohels whom families identified as responsible for their children’s herpes infection. But others herpes-infected mohels remain unknown to the city.

    Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, a Hasidic rabbi who has spoken up against sexual abuse within the community, attributed the family’s silence to pressure from religious authorities. “The only [reason] why they’re not coming forward is because they’re being threatened, ostracized,” he told DNAInfo.

    In the past two decades, metzitzah b’peh has been implicated in the deaths of two infants, brain damage in two more and herpes infections in at least two dozen Hasidic children.

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