Authorities Suspect Haifa-area Mohel of Unkosher Circumcisions

'Unprecedented and unpleasant' problems are halakhic and cosmetic, not medical; panel may recommend second procedure for some babies

An ultra-Orthodox mohel in the Haifa area is suspected of having committed a number of halakhic and cosmetic errors while performing ritual circumcisions, and the Chief Rabbinate and Health Ministry are determining whether to recommend that babies he circumcised undergo a second, corrective procedure.

An interministerial committee of surgeons, rabbis and mohels is set to convene this week to decide whether to discipline the mohel, and whether to recommend the brit milah rite to correct the problems related to halakha (Jewish law ).

No medical negligence is suspected.

The mohel was summoned this week to appear before the committee, and his license may be revoked.

"It's true that this is unprecedented and unpleasant, but the situation isn't as bad as it seems," said Rabbi Chaim Moshe Weisberg, the Chief Rabbinate's national mohel supervisor. "We must remember that there are around 60,000 brit milah ceremonies in Israel every year, and hardly any complications. And if there are complications, the damage is reversible. If only the medical profession was blessed with such a low level of complications."

The issue was made public two weeks ago, when the ultra-Orthodox website posted an item about a number of complaints lodged by parents against the mohel, who the site said is affiliated with the Chabad Lubavitch movement.

Weisberg said he has examined several babies and toddlers whom the mohel circumcised over the past few years, and in some cases found signs of "cosmetic flaws" in the penis.

He said he found flaws of a halakhic nature in three babies, including one in which the foreskin had not been entirely removed, as required by Jewish law.

"Some of the committee members, me included, have examined children brought before the mohel and not found any medical damage," said Weisberg. "The problem is a halakhic one, but one in which the penis isn't very aesthetically appealing."

A few months ago, Weisberg performed a corrective procedure on a 2-year-old, and two other toddlers are slated to undergo similar procedures, which are performed under general anesthesia. The procedure takes place in an operating room, and must be funded by the children's families.

"The situation isn't so grave," said Weisberg. "We've summoned the mohel, and we'll decide what to do. Our decision is first of all to attend to the concerned parents, and then decide how to proceed regarding the mohel and his license."