New York City – Officials and Rabbis Clash Over Metzitzah B’Peh

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    New York City – Some Orthodox Jewish leaders are calling on city health officials to end their campaign to educate parents – which is universal in many Hasidic sects – about the alleged health dangers associated with oral suction, or Metzitzah B’Peh (MBP). But officials say they will not oblige.
    Several Hasidic rabbis, arguing that the city was unconstitutionally interfering with their centuries-old religious practice, met on Friday with Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene, asking him to stand down. The leaders, had even threatened to protest at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s inauguration on Sunday, an attendees said.
    Health officials and Jewish leaders in attendance said the leaders’ general demands were threefold: that the city cease its educational drive, that it stop investigating possible cases and that it stop investigating rabbis it suspects of transmitting herpes – common in the mouths of most adults – to infants during MBP.
    At the meeting on Friday, which ended in acrimony. It became tense when members of the group, the Central Rabbinical Council of the United States and Canada, asked Dr. Frieden to cede authority in the matter to state health officials, who have largely kept out of the matter. Dr. Frieden responded by suggesting that their request was akin to his asking them to cede their religious authority to Catholics, said one Jewish participant at the meeting.
    Health officials confirmed that Dr. Frieden made the comment, but, they said, he did so only to make a point hyperbolically that asking him to cede his authority to the state was just as outrageous. They said he apologized afterward for any remarks perceived as offensive.
    As of this week the dispute seemed to be at a standstill. An attendee at the meeting, said he and other Jewish leaders would not give up their fight.


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