Monday, April 15, 2013

BUSTED: Agudath Israel of America's Antics Revealed

My suspicions concerning a "study" I talked about in my last post have been confirmed, thanks to the blog FailedMessiah.

Apparently both of the "researchers" at Penn Med Center for Evidence-based Practice, who wrote the "study" cited by ultra-orthodox Jewish group Adugath Israel of America in their attempts at repealing the New York law requiring mohels inform parents of the risks of metzitzah b'peh (AKA oral suction of a freshly circumcised baby's penis), both happen to be Orthodox Jews themselves, one of them being closely affiliated with the ultra-orthodox group Philadelphia Kollel.

The "study" was nothing more than an internal practice review, was never published, never peer-reviewed, and apparently was done in response to a request from Agudath Israel of America or one of their supporters.

The two professionals responsible for the "study," one an internist with no significant neonatal infectious disease experience, and the other health policy researcher who is not even a physician or an epidemiologist, did not declare their obvious conflict of interest.

Penn refuses to release the study to journalists, and even physicians and researchersthat have asked for it, but it was leaked none the less, and Failed Messiah got a copy.

In calling the "study" they cite to a Federal Court Judge "independent," and denying the true history of metzitzah b'peh and disease transmission, Adugath Israel is deliberately and blatantly lying.

For example, they cite the Talmud, as you can see in this excerpt from its appeals brief:

"One of the essential steps of the bris milah is metzitzah, during which suction is used to draw blood from the area around the wound. See Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, at 133b. Traditionally, metzitzah is performed using oral suction, in a technique known as metzitzah b’'peh (“"MBP”"). Many prominent rabbinic authorities maintain that MBP is the proper, or even the only acceptable, way to fulfill the religious obligation. See SA 6-8."

The Talmud also makes it clear that that MBP is done for health reasons. As such, Jewish law should hold that MBP should not be done today because there is a large amount of evidence that it kills and maims babies, but Audath omits this from its brief.

"MBP is performed around the world, and has been safely practiced for millenia. Mohelim are carefully trained to ensure that MBP is performed in a safe manner. Among other precautions, mohelim do not perform circumcisions if they are exhibiting any symptoms of the herpes virus, such as cold sores; they minimize the duration of the contact, so that it lasts only approximately one second; and they generally precede the procedure by rinsing their mouths with an antiseptic, which in the case of mouthwash has been shown to eliminate the herpes virus in the saliva even of individuals exhibiting symptoms of a herpes infection. See SA 6-7 & 9 n.2; see also JA 19 (Berman Aff. ¶ 20)."

According to Failed Messiah, there is no organization that regulates mohels or supervises what they do. Some pick their noses and suck their fingers seconds before removing babies' foreskins; others wear gloves and have autoclaves to sterilize their instruments.

But quite possibly the biggest lie in Agudath's brief is that "MBP has been safely practiced for millenia."

In my last post, I point out that, according to Leonard Glick, author of "Marked in Your Flesh," metzitzah b'peh is actually a relatively recent addition to the Jewish bris milah retual.

But furthermore, rabbinic literature and secular accounts are full of examples of MBP killing babies. Here is a sample from the 135 years before penicillin became widely available. (This link will take you to a file on FailedMessiah.)

The entire appeals brief that contains the above lies and the repeated misuse of the so-called Penn Med "study" can be viewed as a PDF file at FailedMessiah.

The University Of Pennsylvania has issued a statement on Agudath Israel Of America:

 Statement from the University of Pennsylvania Health System April 15, 2013

A review of available scientific peer-reviewed literature developed by our Center for Evidence-based Practice for physician information was recently cited by plaintiffs in a legal action against the New York City Health Department. The unpublished report was used without our knowledge or consent and importantly, without proper context. Further, a subsequent press release mischaracterized our review by implying that there is no causal relationship between circumcision performed with oral suction and the transmission of neonatal herpes simplex virus (HSV) when the full report on the existing evidence concluded this link does exist. Since our literature review, a February 2013 study published in the Pediatric Journal of Infectious Diseases, Koren et al, also supported this link based on transmission cases seen in Israel. In both our literature review and this latest peer-reviewed publication, the limitations of available evidence highlight the need for additional research, but because neonatal HSV can cause severe, life-altering illness or death in newborns, any risk factor that might expose a newborn to significant infection should be considered. It is regrettable that our evidence review was manipulated for purposes other than advising physicians of important clinical risk factors for newborns.
Penn Med could not be clearer – Agudath Israel of America used an internal Penn Med study without permission, took it out of context and misrepresented what the study found – in other words, the rabbis and gedolim of Agudah are outright lying.

My question is this; if this "study" was bought and paid for by a group with religious interests, then what other "research" is merely cooked data to support a religious view? What other "researchers" are purposefully failing to declare their conflicts of interest? And what other outrageous claims regarding circumcision are merely misrepresented words taken out of context?

Who are FailedMessiah? Read more about them here.

Related Articles:
Politically Correct Research: When Science, Morals and Political Agendas Collide

NEW STUDY: Ultra-Orthodox Mohels Don't Give Babies Herpes

NEW YORK: Two More Herpes Babies, One With HIV

NEW YORK: Yet Another Herpes Baby

Rabbis Delay NYC's Metzitzah B'Peh Regulations - Meanwhile, in Israel...

New York: Oral Mohel Tests Positive for Herpes

Herpes Circumcision Babies: Another One? Geez!

Mohels Spreading Herpes: New York Looks the Other Way

Circumcision Indicted in Yet Another Death: Rabbis and Mohels are "Upset"


  1. "What other 'research' is merely cooked data"? I find it interesting is that you can predict whether a study will support circumcision based on who the authors are. There is evidence that the studies done in Africa were poorly designed and that their findings were selectively reported. Even though these studies were performed using taxpayer money, the researchers have no obligation to make the data they collected available to other researchers. This data needs to be made available so it can be determined what these studies really found.

  2. Joseph, thank you, thank you for this.

    Applaud. Applaud. Applaud.

    Failed Messiah is one of the most important blogs in America. It is owned by Scott Rosenberg, who grew up Reform, was Chabad for 10-15 years, and is now the leading critic of moral corruption and abuses of power among Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews. Failed Messiah shows the parallels between the conduct of certain Roman Catholic priests and certain rabbis, and how both denominations have resorted to similar cover-up tactics.

    Lord Acton was, of course, right: power corrupts, and absolute (including religious) power corrupts absolutely.

    @bossy-squirrel: the computer files resulting from the African clinical trials will have to be made available to qualified researchers sooner or later. If this is not the case by, say, 2020, we intactivists will have the right to dismiss the RCTs out of hand.

  3. "one of them being closely affiliated with the ultra-orthodox group Philadelphia Kollel"

    While skimming, I read that as Pedophilia Kollel.

    Don't worry; I chastised myself.