Court ruling threatens traditional circumcision
By Judy Siegel
(December 13) - Monday's High Court of Justice ruling that any physician approved by a hospital can perform circumcisions will in effect mean the end of the profession of non-medical ritual circumcisers (mohalim), according to Rabbi Yosef Weisberg, national supervisor of the Health and Religious Affairs ministries' and Chief Rabbinate's national commission in charge of mohalim.
Weisberg, a certified mohel who has performed the ritual on tens of thousands of children, told The Jerusalem Post that already, many mohalim in the Dan Region have changed profession to kashrut supervisors and Talmud Torah teachers because of the lack of work, as secular parents and some religious ones as well, have chosen physicians to circumcise their sons. "The public has more confidence in doctors, even though mohalim have a lot more experience and expertise in circumcision," Weisberg said with dismay. He added that parents - even some religious ones - want the circumciser to wear surgical gloves when performing the brit mila (circumcision), but Jewish law prohibits this except in unusual cases as when the mother is a hepatitis B or HIV carrier. "The sages require that the edge of foreskin be ripped using the fingernail, and you can't do this wearing gloves. There are also parents who insist on anesthesia, but this too is not permitted by Jewish law. Physicians will not care about these strictures." The High Court dealt with the issue when Mila Tova, a private clinic using urological surgeons, protested against the Health Ministry's refusal to include the doctors on its list of approved mohalim. When it realized that it could not limit circumcision only to mohalim, the ministry decided to adopt a new policy in which any hospital director could grant approval to doctors to perform a brit mila.
Ministry Acting Director-General Boaz Lev said that according to existing laws, any M.D. can perform any medical procedure. "I wouldn't expect a hospital director to allow an intern studying psychiatry to do circumcisions, as he and the doctor would have to bear responsibility," Lev said. "But the ministry itself will not set down what type of doctor can perform them." Weisberg, author of an authoritative book on circumcision, Otzar Habrit, said that he knows of many physicians who have closed their practices and taken up the profession of circumciser. "They charge NIS 2,000 for a brit, and - unlike mohalim - they don't visit the family to see the baby before or after it. The official rate for mohalim is NIS 500."
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