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Infant dies after contracting herpes during blood-sucking Jewish circumcision ritual at hospital

Friday, March 09, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: circumcision, herpes, Jewish ritual

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(NaturalNews) A two-week old boy died recently at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, after undergoing a rarely-practiced, and highly controversial, Jewish circumcision ritual known as metzitzah b'peh. According to the New York Daily News (NYDN), the unidentified young boy contracted herpes simplex virus Type 1 from the Rockland County rabbi that performed the ritual on him, and died shortly thereafter.

The practice, which involves a rabbi literally sucking the blood from the circumcised boy's "wound" with his mouth after the circumcision has been performed, has long been considered by many, including those in the public health sector, as extremely high risk -- some even attribute it to child abuse. And in this particular case, the boy, who is not the first to have died during a metzitzah b'peh ritual, contracted oral herpes from an unidentified, infected rabbi.

The Jewish Week reports that the Brooklyn District Attorney's office is currently performing an investigation into the incident to see whether or not it may be a criminal matter. After all, a similar incident occurred back in 2005 when another young boy undergoing metzitzah b'peh also died during the ritual, and three others also reportedly contracted herpes in 2004, which in that case was spread by Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer (http://www.thejewishweek.com).

"The state has a compelling interest in protecting the health of children and needs to step in on an emergency basis to make sure this practice is halted immediately," said Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, to The Jewish Week. "The DA should step in and this mohel (rabbi who conducted the ritual) should go to jail [for a felony]."

Neither the identity of the family of the boy who most recently died at Maimonides Hospital, nor the rabbi that gave him herpes, have been publicly released. And according to NYDN, the family of the now-dead child is not cooperating with the DA's office in releasing the name of the rabbi, which is presumably an effort to protect him from prosecution.

"This is an issue that absolutely cannot be left to the religious authorities," added Hamilton, who is considered to be an expert in church-state matters that involve parsing religious freedom and human rights issues. "It is a violation of the child's right to life and just basic moral values."

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