Would it be all right with you if you had a child in grade one that had a teacher known to be a screamer and someone who regularly berates their young students? Would you let your six-year-old play with an older child who plays with knives or fire? Would you allow your child to go on a school bus driven by someone who has a seizure disorder and does not take his medicine regularly? Would a school hire someone like that, someone who has already had a few auto accidents, to drive a school bus for their students? Would you walk with abandon on the side of a highway and allow your young active child to walk next to you without holding your hand? How about this – Would you allow your child to receive academic tutoring by a known child molester even if people told you that he or she molested only just a few young children? Would you give a six year old the keys to your car? Would you knowingly allow your marriageable age daughter to wed a young man living with a hidden chronic debilitating and likely terminal illness that is known but being currently masked – even if all of these things were only likely to happen once or twice in a hundred times?
I can think of no parent that would say yes willfully to any of the above questions unless they had a serious psychological disorder or are themselves abusers. However, parents regularly engage in these types of destructive behaviors all the time. This is not unique to any religion, culture, or ethnic group. You can pick up a newspaper in Israel, the US, Australia, Holland, South Africa, anywhere and find similar stories about how individual parents are negligent, unthinking, or even indifferent to the best needs of their children. A simple Google news search of child abuse and neglect yields over 5,000 entries from across the world on a daily basis. Where these situations are more likely to be overlooked, concealed, or even justified is within religious communities. The Catholic Church hiding abuse, Islamic leaders’ falsely condemning children to death for alleged blasphemy and ignoring reports of abuse in certain Jewish communities are all well known examples. Within our community a new danger has arisen that only adds to the threat children are exposed to by well intentioned but misled parents.
The ritual of Brit Milah is a mainstay of Judaism. Even Shalom Auslander’s book Foreskin’s Lament a rip-roaring homage and debate about the process of Milah pays homage to the millennial tradition of circumcision. Not that religious Jews need scientific evidence for the continuation of the custom but recently a major group of pediatricians, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy strongly urging circumcision as a means to reduce the threat of transmission of HIV and HPV. Unfortunately, while this empirical evidence for the value and virtue of Brit is expressed the evidence for performing it in a scientifically protected manner is being rejected by some.
Germany is attempting to legislate against Milah and as Chief Rabbi; Rabbi Lau stated, “I didn’t see such German sensitivity to Jewish blood during the Shoah.” Clearly, Jews will continue the tradition with or without German approval.
In speaking of Germany’s attempts to legislate against Milah Rabbi Lau also stated: “We don’t need their permission to live as Jews.” That is absolutely accurate. Some are, however, taking this obstinate hard-necked approach to a level that, without a doubt, may endanger Jewish boys. There is presently a debate in New York State regarding an aspect of Milah.
In a paper issued in June of this year, the U.S Center for Disease Control, reported that children who have a Brit that includes metzitzah b’peh, (MBP) the direct mouth-to-penis sucking of the bleeding circumcision wound by a Mohel are at least 3.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with potentially fatal genital herpes than those who have a Brit where the Mohel uses a pipette for drawing blood. The evidence, based on epidemiological data is incontrovertible despite the few but vociferous voices of protest. Most importantly, the use of a pipette is not a breach of Halacha.
The Health Department of NY State is proposing not to ban MBP rather that parents who opt for this technique sign an informed consent indicating their awareness of the MBP procedure risk. There is no equivalence between Germany and NY State. One is attempting to regulate away a basic Jewish tradition and law. The other is attempting to protect children and inform parents within reasonable Halacha. If the State requires parents to protect their children by holding their hand when crossing a street would anyone debate that point? Oh yeah, that is right, they already do! Parents who allow their children to run free without supervision can be charged with neglect and abuse. There is no reason to sacrifice a child’s life whether by carelessness or misinformed Halacha.