(Editor’s note: This is an updated version of the story posted Thursday.)
Parents of a baby boy say the child suffered a “catastrophic and life-changing injury” during his bris this past April, and are suing the Pittsburgh mohel who performed the procedure for negligence.
The civil complaint against Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg was filed Dec. 17 in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. It alleges “misuse” of surgical instruments by the rabbi during the bris, injuring the child as his parents looked on.
The family is identified only by initials in the complaint to protect the child’s identity.
Neil Rosen, the attorney for the parents, said the boy was rushed to UPMC Children’s Hospital where he spent over a month, much of it in the neonatal ICU, being treated for a massive blood loss.
“[He] had his blood volume replaced several times,” Rosen said. “This child nearly died. This is not some minor event that occurred at a bris, this was a catastrophic, near-death injury.”
A spokeswoman for Rosenberg’s attorney, Paula Koczan of Weber Gallagher, said it was the firm’s policy not to comment on pending cases.
Despite the gravity of the case, Rosen said he does not want it to become a referendum on circumcision.
“I do not — and I emphasize, do not — want this lawsuit to turn into a circumcision debate,” he said. “I am very familiar with the Jewish tradition, the covenant of circumcision. I think it’s wonderful that people of our faith follow their covenant, but that’s not what this case is all about.”
Indeed, most circumcisions performed in the United States each year are done without incident, and the professional association of pediatricians recommends the procedure.
According to his website, Rosenberg, 54, an ordained rabbi, has served as a mohel in the Pittsburgh area since 1990. He apprenticed under the late Rabbi Benjamin Nadoff trained and certified by the late Rabbi Yosef Dovid Weisberg, the Commissioner of Mohelim in Israel and Chief Mohel of Jerusalem.
The website also said Rosenberg is “recognized as a certified mohel by the American Board of Ritual Circumcision,” though it was not clear what that organization is or how it functions. Efforts to contact the organization were not successful and other mohels interviewed by the Chronicle said they know nothing about it.
Circumcision is a recommended procedure by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Evaluation of current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, and the benefits of newborn male circumcision justify access to this procedure for those families who choose it,” according a report by the Academy’s Task Force on Circumcision, which was issued in 2012. The report is available for review online.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)