The Journal News, Westchester, New York, Wednesday, February 16, 2005.

State gets rabbi's herpes test


(Original publication: February 16, 2005)

The state Health Department has received the herpes test results of a Monsey rabbi suspected of passing on the virus to infants during a circumcision ritual.

State health officials subpoenaed the test results Friday, "but at this point in time, they're for internal use only," said Robert Kenney, a state Health Department spokesman.

Rockland County, Orange County and New York City health officials have prohibited Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, 66, from performing a portion of the ritual that entails sucking blood from the wound.

Three infants circumcised by Fischer, including one who died, had contracted herpes, according to the New York City Health Department.

Fischer's attorney, Mark Jay Kurzman of Pearl River, was upset yesterday that word of the subpoena had reached the media.

"I have no comment on what ought to be a confidential, discreet governmental investigation," Kurzman said.

He also would not comment on a court session scheduled for today regarding the prohibition against Fischer's performing the full circumcision ritual.

Gabriel Taussig, chief of the administrative law division of the New York City Law Department, confirmed yesterday that the city had complied with the subpoena but declined to discuss the test results.

Taussig said today's court session in Manhattan was to be a conference among all the parties. The city is seeking a preliminary injunction that would prohibit Fischer from performing the full ritual until the case is resolved.

The ritual, which involves the sucking of blood, is predominantly used by Hasidic Jews.

The circumcisions by Fischer drew the attention of public health officials after a Manhattan newborn died of herpes in November, and his twin was diagnosed with the virus, about two weeks after their circumcisions. A third infant, from Staten Island, also was diagnosed soon after his bris.

County health departments do not regulate the religious ritual.

(File created February 19, 2005)