From questionable circumcision ritual to occupation tourism, NY Times chronicles Jewish life sans judgment

on 4 Comments

The New York Times article titled, “Suit is filed over move to regulate circumcision” is part of the paper’s recent ongoing campaign to chronicle the Jewish cultural scene, both locally and internationally, and more specifically to report on the battle between government officials and some members of various Jewish religious communities concerning the regulation of the male circumcision ritual know as  a brit milah or bris.  (See these links, 1, 2, 3).

Some members of the Jewish Orthodox community feel their authority is being inappropriately undercut by the New York City Department of Health’s new regulation, which requires written parental consent before a circumcision ritual that includes oral-genital contact can be performed.

In th[at]… procedure, common among ultra-Orthodox Jews, the person performing the circumcision uses his mouth to remove blood from the incision.

The oral contact, known in Hebrew as metzitzah b’peh, is considered dangerous by public health officials, because of the possibility of spreading diseases, specifically herpes. Failure to comply with the regulation could result in warnings and fines. 

This oral removal of blood from the incision, as the Times so delicately describes the ritual, is not a common practice among Jews, most of whom limit any transgression upon the person of the infant to cutting off the foreskin, and eschew this very ineffective, to put it mildly, method of cleansing the wound.  Metzitzah b’peh, which is practiced by some Orthodox Jews, in Hebrew literally means “sucking by mouth.” It can transmit disease and is counter to present day codes of sexual behavior.  Can you imagine if those practicing the ritual were Muslim imams or better yet Roman Catholic priests?  I don’t think the Times would be giving a “balanced” account. 

Why is this item here in a blog that is devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, some may ask?  It is here because the New York Times is in an odd position of being both the national “paper of record” and a local New York paper that gives disproportionate attention to Jewish culture.  In highlighting Jewish news– to an audience that surely includes a large part of the Jewish establishment– it inevitably privileges Jews over others.  And when it explains both sides of issues involving Jews, the coverage in the Times tends to legitimate the most bizarre practices.

And the most pernicious ones, too. The Times seems to regard itself as an appropriate  platform for  right-wing American-Israeli journalist Shmuel Rosner.   On the website of the Times, on the same day that the circumcision piece appeared, Rosner was assuring readers that enjoying a settler-guided tour of the Israeli occupation can be a very interesting and  enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

As one-sided and ideological as this tour is, though, there’s something to be said for it. It’s interesting, friendly and well organized, and for the many Israelis who go on it — during the recent holiday of Sukkot thousands of them did — it’s a chance to finally see the places about which they have such strong opinions. Samaria (and Judea), as the settlers insist, is really the bedrock of Judaism — the land where its prophets made warnings, its battles were fought, its altars were erected. If they are ever to give up this territory for the sake of peace, Israelis should get to know it first.

Again, I ask you to imagine the Times showing such tolerance of any other illegal occupation.

H/T to Dubai Pauli Bursiewicz who sent me the articles referred to here.

About Ira Glunts

Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY. His twitter handle is @abushalom

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4 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    November 2, 2012, 10:26 am

    The good ol’ NYT. Love it or leave it!

    The story about circumcision is remarkable for the silliness of the issue (as reported): NYDoH does not propose to make this practice illegal, but only to require a written permission from parents who — after all — chose the mohel in the first place. The parents are not even required to watch a movie before signing the permission, a movie showing the dangers of mouth-to-bloody [—] transmission [sorry, “oral removal of blood from the incision”] of viral diseases. The Jews seeking this sort of circumcision (if any) will get off far more easily, in NY, than Jews seeking an abortion in some other states (if any).

  2. MLE
    November 2, 2012, 12:25 pm

    It’s about subscriptions. Especially among baby boomer and older Jewish readers, who are much more loyal subscribers than younger more ambivalent Jews, who probably don’t have room in their budget for a full subscription to the Times. The Jewish subscribers don’t want to read anything that’s even slightly negative about Judaism. It might cause them to cancel their subscription, and the newspaper industry is already suffering enough. Why risk offending good subscribers.

  3. DICKERSON3870
    November 2, 2012, 10:29 pm

    RE: “the New York Times is in an odd position of being both the national ‘paper of record’ and a local New York paper” ~ Ira Glunts

    MY COMMENT: Not to mention that the New York Times is also in the real estate biz!

    ● FROM WIKIPEDIA [The New York Times Building]:

    (EXCERPTS) The New York Times Building is a skyscraper on the west side of Midtown Manhattan that was completed in 2007. Its chief tenant is The New York Times Company, publisher of The New York Times as well as The Boston Globe, the International Herald Tribune, and other newspapers. Construction was a joint venture of The New York Times Company, Forest City Ratner Companies—the Cleveland-based real estate firm redeveloping the Brooklyn Atlantic rail yards—and ING Real Estate.
    The project was announced on December 13, 2001, entailing the erection of a 52-story tower on the east side of Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Street across from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Bus Terminal.
    The site for the building was obtained by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) through eminent domain. With a mandate to acquire and redevelop blighted properties in Times Square, ten existing buildings were condemned by the ESDC and purchased from owners who in some cases did not want to sell, asserting that the area was no longer blighted (thanks in part to the earlier efforts of the ESDC). The ESDC, however, prevailed in the courts.[4][5]
    Once the 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) site was assembled, it was leased to The New York Times Company and Forest City Ratner for $85.6 million over 99 years (considerably below market value).[citation needed] Additionally, The New York Times Company received $26.1 million in tax breaks. . . [citation needed]
    . . . The New York Times Company owns about 800,000 square feet (74,000 m2) on the second through the 27th floors. Forest City Ratner owns about 700,000 square feet (65,000 m2) on floors 29 through 52, as well as 21,000 square feet (2,000 m2) of street-level retail space. The lobby and floors 28 and 51 are jointly owned.[7] . . .

    SOURCE –

    ● ALSO SEE: “The Paper of Wreckage; The ‘Times’ Bulldozes Its Way to a Sweetheart Land Deal You Will Pay For”, By Paul Moses, The Village Voice, 6/18/02

    [EXCERPT] Thanks to a deal with the Pataki and Giuliani administrations, The New York Times Company is in line to get a choice midtown property at tens of millions of dollars below market value—and city taxpayers will foot the difference, newly disclosed records show. . .


    ● AND SEE: “‘Times’ to Commoners: Go Elsewhere; Don’t soil our publicly subsidized new HQ with your riff-raff”, By Paul Moses, The Village Voice, 8/09/05
    LINK –


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