Parents Need To Be Informed Of Risks Of Practitioners Sucking Blood From Circumcised Baby Penises

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*Some Orthodox Jews suck the blood from the wounds of circumcised baby penises. Today is one of those days were I feel totally more educated and totally more freaked out. I’m not of the Jewish faith, so I was unaware this was a thing until Gawker taught me this was a thing and well, here, you guys:

Call me crazy, but I don’t think it should be legal for adults to suck the blood from freshly circumcised baby penises. Alas, doing just that is a very important ritual for some Orthodox Jews. Called metzitzah b’peh, the process involves the mohel snipping away the foreskin and then sucking the blood from the penis to “cleanse” the wound.

I have never attended a bris before so I was totally clueless to the metzitzah b’peh before.. just now.

ABC news goes on to explain:

About two-thirds of boys born in New York City’s Hasidic communities are circumcised in the oral suction manner, according to Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of the Orthodox Jewish organization Agudath Israel of America.

The health department has said there is no safe way to perform oral suction on an open wound in an infant.

But some rabbis have said that they will oppose the law on religious grounds, insisting it has been performed “tens of thousands of times a year” worldwide. They say safeguarding the life of a child is one of the religion’s highest principles.

“This is the government forcing a rabbi practicing a religious ritual to tell his congregants it could hurt their child,” Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the Hasidic United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, “If, God forbid, there was a danger, we would be the first to stop the practice.”

But Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, told during the investigation of one of the deaths last spring, “It’s certainly not something any of us recommend in the modern infection-control era.”

“This is a ritual [of oral suction] … that’s come down through the ages, and now it has met modern science,” he said. “It was never a good idea, and there is a better way to do this.”

It was never a good idea, yeah.

The law will require mohels who perform oral suction in circumcisions to explain the risks to parents prior to the procedure, including the possible transmission of herpes simplex virus, and have parents sign a waiver.

I think it’s a good idea that parents are informed that during this ritual their newborn sons could contract diseases such as Type 1 Herpes which can be deadly in newborns. The American Academy Of Pediatrics states that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks and I can understand why this is a personal family decision that should be made by parents in conjunction with their own beliefs , and I’m not being closed minded here but.. seriously! Sucking blood from a baby penis WHAT?! In this modern day where we have things like sterilized medical equipment and medicine do we really need men to cleanse the wounds of baby penises following a circumcision by sucking the blood from the wound? Oy.

*edited to add the word “some”

(Photo: Yehuda Boltshauser/Shutterstock)


  1. Lastango

    September 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    “In this modern day where we have things like sterilized medical equipment and medicine do we really need men to cleanse the wounds of baby penises following a circumcision by sucking the blood from the wound?”
    In this modern day we have no respect for anyone’s traditions, and no comprehension of their significance.

    • Lolly

      September 29, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      Anyone’s? Too broad.

      I have no respect for traditions that endanger the non-consenting. If you’re willing and able to sign up for whatever it is, that’s none of my business, but otherwise, human rights > tradition.

    • Eve Vawter

      September 30, 2012 at 4:32 am

      Well, I would love an explanation of the significance of the blood sucking. I thought it was done, originally, a hundred years ago due to safeguarding against infection/blood clots when traditional sterilization methods weren’t available. What is the significance of the blood sucking in religious tradition regard?

    • Avodah

      September 30, 2012 at 9:43 am

      They aren’t,like, drinking the blood. You keep using the phrase “blood sucking” in order to make your point, but it really makes you look ignorant.

      They don’t drink it later or something. By the way- Jews would be forbidden from doing so anyway. Even when kashers meat they have to salt it to remove a vast majority of blood.

      Read a book.

    • Eve Vawter

      September 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      Why would they drink it later? That makes no sense. who said they drink it later?

    • Avodah

      September 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Eve, you keep saying “blood sucking” which implies something entirely different than what actually happens. They aren’t vampire mohels. The blood is removed using a tube (sort of like a tiny glass straw) to keep the wound clean. You used Gawker as your source…

    • anonymous

      October 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm

      @949221f4020853fa803da1f1c5cb6a1f:disqus I, myself, am Jewish (reform) and was not aware that this type of circumcision was done in Orthodox communities until I saw a report on the new consent-form requirement on New York 1 (the local city news station). I have to admit, I had a reaction similar to @EveVawter:disqus’s; but her immature, insensitive, and defensive comments really turned me off and I will be sure to avoid reading her articles in the future. I respect your scholarship in the matter and appreciate your clarification on something that I probably wouldn’t have researched further.

    • Lastango

      September 30, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      Avodah seems to be suggesting that you are deliberately selecting alarmist phrasing to preempt disagreement. An example might be, “but… seriously! Sucking blood from a baby penis WHAT?”
      After slinging that around as your opening attack, it seems difficult for you to now fall back on feigning an intellectual interest in the origins and signivicance of orthodox Jewish traditions.
      Face it… you didn’t get the knee-jerk “Yuck” reaction you were seeking. We’re not all a bunch of college undergrads you can stampede because we fear being unpopular.

    • Eve Vawter

      September 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm

      Oh no, I’m having a total knee jerk YUCK reaction myself. You act like this practice is something utterly familiar to the majority of readers when it just isn’t. Do I find religions fascinating? yes. Do I find this decades old practice odd and a bit disturbing? yes. Do I think parents should be aware of this practice and if their mohel plans on doing it? yes. I’m not sure why you are having this reaction to an article. If you are insulted I used Gawker and ABC news as sources rather than interview some mohels who practice this I hate to tell you this, they are sorta hard to find on the internets.

    • Anna

      September 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm

      Riddle me this: what “disease” could a baby get by coming into contact with a sterile tube? What “dangers” do their parents need to be made aware of?

    • Eve Vawter

      October 1, 2012 at 5:10 am

      Type 1 herpes. Since 2002, 11 different babies have contracted it due to this practice and it has caused deaths and brain damage in some babies. I’m not sure if the “sterile tube” was used or not in all of the cases.

    • Lawcat

      October 1, 2012 at 12:01 am

      Omg it’s just SO HARD to find pick up a phone….and apparently, to write an article. It’s easy to just let someone else do it and say “ew! This is disturbing, but I’m too lazy to put any real legwork into it so….ew!”

      What’s the word count on portions lifted from Gawker vs. your own words?

      Cool story, Eve…err… Cord Jefferson.

    • Lawcat

      September 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Maybe *you* should do some research into the process, interview someone, etc rather than quoting from a Gawker article if you want an explanation. This is just a poorly written article.

  2. Mama

    September 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    SOME Orthdox Jews… not all. The first sentence is an inaccurate generalization.

    • Eve Vawter

      September 30, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      I added a “some” for you, but I assumed people would get some considering the article reads: some Orthodox Jews.

    • kathleen

      October 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      Well, and — some Orthodox Jewish MOHELS…it’s not like there are Orthodox Jewish adults performing vampiric rites on baby boys. The first sentence of this article is not specific enough for such an inflammable issue.

  3. Katia

    September 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Most ppl in Canada Europe and Asia don’t bother with this irreversible surgery. Maybe there is more aids in the us or they are just behind medically? I don’t understand why it’s recomended. And I just don’t think we have the right to choose the removal of the body part for future adult males who may resent our decision. And c’mon religios folks safety first! This is too much and yes , gross 🙁 sorry

    It’s interesting that we circumcision is often talked about regarding Jewish people. But numbers wise, more arabs and non- Jewish Americans probably do it, just because there are so many more of them

  4. Avodah

    September 29, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    The xenophobia is palpable. I studied Orthodoxy for my graduate degree. This procedure is done only the most traditional and religiously right-wing of the Orthodox Jewish Groups.

    When circumcision is done the traditional way, by a mohel, it is done with a very, very sharp surgical knife and takes about 30 seconds (that includes cleaning the infant’s genitals with rubbing alcohol to make a clean cute). Honestly? Most attending the bris don’t even know when the cut happens because it happens so quickly and cleanly.

    Eve- don’t use gawker for research.

    • Katia

      September 29, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      I don’t feel Iike a xenophobe. I haven’t taken religious studies and never gave a second thought about circumsision till I had my little guy. I’m white American and tons of white Americans circumsie and without religious reasons. It should be every mans own choice regardless of his parents background. From a mothers perspective indoctrination is obviously your choice, a non necessary surgery is wrong , and no medical risk talk is irresponsible. I don’t care what any religion does aceept when there are children involved. I loved the scene in ‘being Erica ‘ when she (a Jewish character) speaks out about circumsision … Glad that this tradition is hopefully losing popularity

    • Avodah

      September 30, 2012 at 9:42 am


      I have an entire graduate degree in it from an ivy-league school (another story). Eve’s story was poorly researched (if at all researched), and failed to make an important distinction between the ultra right-wing of Chasidic and Haredi sects and more mainstream traditional Orthodoxy.

      They don’t “suck blood from a penis”. Its don’e through a tine tube. The practiced originated as a way of making the wound more “clean” by not having blood caked all over it. Outdated practice? Probably.

      Is this article about circumcision at large? No.

      Did Eve do her research? Absolutely not.

      Does one have to if one writes for XoJane or Mommyish? OMG no.

    • Eve Vawter

      September 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      Is the tiny tube in contact with the penis? Yes! And total cool story bro about your ivy league degree.

    • Avodah

      September 30, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      This isn’t about me or my background. I was merely explaining my credentials after having studied Orthodoxy. It is about your poorly researched and misleading article.

    • Another Steph

      September 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm

      Really? You write an offensive ‘for the clicks’ story about how, ew, gross, people who are different to me like, suck little babies penises and stuff, using a freaking gossip website to back you up, and when someone with an actual education calls you out, you ‘cool story bro’ them? Another new low for Mommyish.

    • Eve Vawter

      September 30, 2012 at 8:57 pm

      Oh hell yeah, I will ” cool story bro” anyone who humblebrags about their ” ivy league” education on the INTERNETZ to try and act like an expert on stuff. You know who else had an ” ivy league” education? George HW Bush and Ted Kennedy. Cool.story.bro. The article isn’t offensive and it isn’t for the clicks. TMZ is a ” gossip” website. Gawker has a lot of different articles on it, but if you have an issue with Gawker or abc news, you can happily complain to them.

    • Anna

      September 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm

      Why are you being so rude? Something that has to deal with a religious practice should be heavily researched and approached with sensitivity. Going “ew gross, look what these weirdos do!” is terrible. And you, a non-Jewish person, do not get to decide what is offensive to Jewish people.

    • Eve Vawter

      October 1, 2012 at 5:29 am

      I never said “look what these weirdos do.” Here is MY opinion, once again, as stated above: I think it’s a good idea that parents are informed that during this ritual their newborn sons could contract diseases such as Type 1 Herpes which can be deadly in newborns. The American Academy Of Pediatrics states that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks and I can understand why this is a personal family decision that should be made by parents in conjunction with their own beliefs , and I’m not being closed minded here but.. seriously! Sucking blood from a baby penis WHAT?! In this modern day where we have things like sterilized medical equipment and medicine do we really need men to cleanse the wounds of baby penises following a circumcision by sucking the blood from the wound?

    • Another Steph

      October 1, 2012 at 1:09 am

      I don’t have a problem with Gawker or ABC, I have a problem with you writing a racist and alarmist article with absolutely no research whatsoever. Your opinions are uniformed and incorrect and Avodah was merely pointing this out as someone who actually does know something about Jewish tradition, something she learned from years of reading textbooks and not half a minute of WILFing.
      Honestly, your reaction to these comments proves your ignorance and lack of professionalism so there’s really no point to this, however I have two points with which I will conclude:
      1) Mentioning one’s Ivy League education isn’t ‘humblebragging’. An example of humblebragging would be, “I don’t hold much with fancy learning, I went to a community college that didn’t even have computers.” If you’re going be supa fly and use INTERNETZ slang, get it right.
      2) What’s wrong with Ted Kennedy? That’s a serious question, I’m not an American so I’m obviously missing something here.

    • Katia

      October 1, 2012 at 12:34 am

      I’m glad they don’t actually put mouth to penis!

    • Eve Vawter

      September 30, 2012 at 4:28 am

      Oh come on, circumcision is one thing, but sucking the blood from the penis is another. I think you can be a bit freaked out by this and not be a xenophobe.

    • Ipsedixit

      September 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      Why are you “freaked out?” You’re not Jewish and didn’t have the procedure done?

    • Eve Vawter

      September 30, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      sucking blood from a baby penis freaks me out.

    • Ipsedixit

      September 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      Sooo did you ask anyone about the process? Someone who practices or performs it maybe? Or are you seriously using JUST the Gawker article as your knowledge on the subject?

  5. Anna

    September 30, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    This article was so insensitive and the tone was antisemitic. Wtf is up with this, Mommyish? This isn’t what we should be teaching our children- accuse first and research later. BULL.

    • Eve Vawter

      October 1, 2012 at 5:27 am

      There is NOTHING antisemitic about believing parents should sign a consent stating they are aware their babies may contract type 1 herpes following this practice. There is nothing antisemitic about writing that Type 1 herpes can be spread from an adult mouth to a fresh wound on a child’s penis.

  6. blade

    December 24, 2012 at 2:07 am

    Damn how gross can those people get,When you think you have heard it all,that is sick,sick,sick to the core,don’t those fools realize that the mouth is a bacteria nest,are these folks vampire’s ?

  7. Sha

    February 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I just found this article and apparently I’m a little late responding (4 months), but I want to add my thoughts. I recently took an English class and my professor brought this up in a very condescending way. I am not Jewish, but I have always been fascinated by Judaism. When he mentioned this topic, I was shocked and couldn’t respond. I had no idea that even occured. It is not exactly a comfortable subject, but something like this, especially in regard to a whole community of people, should be researched extremely well. The article doesn’t come outright and scream anti-semitism, but it does have the undertone. There is a lot of anti-semitism in the world and this issue (not just this article) is potentially a catalyst for even more hatred of Jews. I am pretty stubborn when it comes to things I believe in and love, but I have to be careful about what and how I judge things. I think it is better for us not to discuss issues like this in a way that can bring negativity into lives of people who have nothing to do with it. It is an indirect action, not your intention obviously, that occurs when articles are written somewhat vaguely. Thank you for bringing it up, because I was looking for more information in the subject when I came across it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though you are right about parents knowing about the risks of this procedure, that’s the last thing on the readers mind as they read it. Does that make sense?

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