At a Jewish Press mayoral forum tonight in Anthony Weiner’s old congressional district, the former congressman was evasive when pressed about his stance on a controversial Orthodox Jewish circumcision practice that Mayor Michael Bloomberg sought to regulate last year.
“I first spoke about metzitzah b’peh when I ran in 2005,” Mr. Weiner said at the Brooklyn forum, referring to the ritual where a mohel uses his mouth to suck blood from the circumcision wound. The city’s health department has linked the practice to several fatal transmissions of the herpes virus to infants, and now requires mohels to obtain letters of consent from parents that make them explicitly aware of the ritual’s health risks.
Mr. Weiner said the issue has long been on his radar.
“I was trying to get anyone possible to talk about it in the context of that campaign because you know, this didn’t start last week,” he said. ”This has been going on for years now, that this battle has been going on, and for me it comes down to my values as someone who believes in the ethos of New York.”
“Part of that ethos of New York is we all come from different places, we bring different cultures, we bring different ideas, we are never too far from our mother country. We try to bring those traditions here and that’s very, very important and part of the fundamental structure of the frum community,” he said, using a traditional term for observant Jews.
But in contrast to his many of opponents, Mr. Weiner refused to directly address the issue–Mr. Bloomberg’s new regulations, which are deeply unpopular in some Orthodox Jewish communities who believe Mr. Bloomberg created a chilling effect on their religious practice. Instead, he pointed to a quote from a Jewish Daily Forward story from 2005, when he last ran for mayor.
“It is not the place of the department of health to be deciding on a religious practice. I am troubled, based on the facts of this case, about whether or not the city has overreached here,” Mr. Weiner told the Forward in 2005.
After the forum, Politicker asked Mr. Weiner specifically about the Bloomberg administration’s regulation of metzitzah b’peh, but he brushed off the question.
“That was the first question and I did answer it, I did actually,” Mr. Weiner said, declining to elaborate.