Friday, June 15, 2012

Novelist Lisa Braver Moss Writes on Circumcision Jewish Practices for Huffington Post

By REBECCA WALD

Novelist and Beyond the Bris contributor Lisa Braver Moss has written a powerful essay for the Huffington Post on metzitzah b’peh, which is practiced by some Orthodox mohels during the bris. As a direct result of the ritual, several New York infants contracted the herpes virus. Two died and two suffered permanent brain damage.  

“Jewish law is constantly evolving. Our practices change as we learn,” writes Moss. “If we discover that a previously accepted Jewish tradition is dangerous—or if we simply learn that there’s a more compassionate way to act, one that is more consistent with Jewish principles than the previous interpretation—it's incumbent on us to modify or discontinue the tradition,” she says.

Many Jewish parents considering circumcision pros and cons know nothing about metzitzah b’peh, in which the mohel washes the fresh wound with wine, using his mouth, after he has removed the foreskin. It is important for all Jewish parents to recognize that although this practice is rare, it does take place. If the decision is made to hire a mohel and have a bris, parents should gain specific assurance before the ritual that no oral-genital contact will take place.

There are a number of diseases, in addition to the herpes virus, that can be transferred via oral contact with an open wound. These include HIV, HPV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis B. Although the focus of the current metzitzah b’peh controversy has been on infants contracting herpes, it is very possible to transmit other diseases as part of this bris ceremony.

Of course, some Jewish parents today are opting to skip circumcision surgery altogether and hold a brit shalom instead. By peacefully welcoming their sons into the covenant with a non-traditional bris that skips the cutting, it is possible to completely avoid all circumcision complications.

Lisa Braver Moss does not touch on the brit shalom movement in her Huffington Post piece, but she does mention the current Jewish movement to question circumcision. “[E]ven without metzitzah b'peh, circumcision carries the risk of complications and death from sepsis, hemorrhage and other causes. All this has led a small number of Jews to question not only how circumcisions are performed, but the very act itself,” she says.
  

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