UOS Congregations

Botched bris leads to investigation

  • Chief Rabbi and Rosh BD
A recent circumcision in Johannesburg “which resulted in injury to the baby”, has prompted the Chief Rabbi and the rosh Beth Din to establish a commission of enquiry, headed by a retired justice, to investigate this case. A media statement issued jointly by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein and Rosh Beth Din Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, said the commission of enquiry would be headed by retired Justice Phillip Levinsohn, former Deputy Judge President of KwaZulu-Natal.
by ANT KATZ | Jul 14, 2014

Baby injured at bris: Commission appointed  

The commission will be chaired by retired Justice Phillip Levensohn. The other members of the commission are Rabbi Pinchas Zekry, an expert retired *mohel and Dr Jeffery Glocer, a specialist urologist.

“Circumcision (or bris or ‘brit mila’ as it is commonly known in Hebrew), is a foundation pillar of the Jewish people, and has been for almost 4 000 years since Abraham circumcised his son, Isaac, on the eighth day. It is the sign of our eternal covenant with G-d, and, consequently, is one of our most important and precious mitzvoth,” a statement on the appointment of the Commission, said in its introduction.


Looking into current standards of practice

On the circumcision in Johannesburg, the statement read: “To be clear, the mohel in question has never before been the subject of such queries relating to his competence. On the contrary, this mohel has been practising as such for many decades successfully.

“Having said that, this case will be fully investigated by the commission, which will make recommendations in respect of the specific case, as well as recommending action, if any, it deems necessary to improve safety standards of ‘brit mila’ in South Africa,” said the statement issued late last week.

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“The Commission’s mandate has been expanded to include any complaints regarding any other ‘bris’ which has taken place in the past. If there are complaints regarding any other ‘bris’ which any member of the community would like to submit to the Commission for investigation, they must notify the Beth Din office as soon as possible.


Can’t be done by a doctor

“We also wish to inform the community that the mitzvah of ‘brit mila’ has specific Halachic requirements which can only be met by a properly trained Mohel, and not through a doctor, who may be unqualified to perform the mitzvah in accordance with the Halacha.

“We would also like to take this opportunity to wish a speedy recovery - ‘refuah shleima’ - to the baby and his parents and family.

“Our Jewish methods of circumcision, through trained mohalim, has stood the test of time throughout every era of history, throughout the globe, and indeed also here in South Africa.

“Over more than the 150 year history of the South African Jewish community, hundreds of thousands of successful circumcisions have taken place,” said the country’s two most senior Rabbis.

“Nevertheless, even one injury, is a serious matter and we remain committed to maintaining and improving Halachic and safety standards of ‘brit mila’ in South Africa. This commission is part of honouring that commitment,” the statement concluded.

  • *A mohel is a rabbi who has specialised in performing circumcisions


  1. 18 David Blend 15 Jul
    What a load of protectionist Codswollop. do they realise that 'internal investigations' are seen to be , and open to be interpreted as, a direct product of non transparent and historical cover ups. Any discerning member of our community, as well as outsider, critics of our traditions, would be left a yawning cavern to question any secretive result.
    It is time to open the system, of our religious rituals and traditions, to a new level of transparency. Our community deserves the right  to see and understand, as well as interpret the future of such rituals , and their direct consequences, on our loved ones.
    The days of 'Old Wise Bearded Men' making our decisions for us, are historical and over.    
  2. 17 Samuel Shalom 21 Jul
    The solution is simple.

    Since this effects the restoration of the Jewish public's trust to brit mila, it is of utmost urgency to reveal the name of the mohel.

    Don't play games, in other words FULL DISCLOSURE about who he is, what he did and what he can expect, then the community must disassociate from him,  and ban him from ever doing any more brisim.

    He can go to Israel or wherever he wants far away and be made to promise in writing and take a holy oath never to do another bris again!

    And above all else he must do teshuva for the rest of his life.

    Make him pay damages and do the first penance (teshuva) preferably in public where he will beg for the forgiveness from the parents, from the baby and from the Beth Din, and from the community that he has so let down, for his terrible mistake that will effect the life of this baby boy.

    He has shamed himself and the noble role of mohalim.

    The first mohel was Avraham Avinu (the Biblical Abraham) who according to the Torah circumcised himself and then all the males of his household.
  3. 16 David Blend 21 Jul
    Samuel , you have astonishingly high standards .  Do you apply them to yourself as well ?
  4. 15 Samuel Shalom 22 Jul
    @David Blend 21 Jul "Samuel , you have astonishingly high standards .  Do you apply them to yourself as well ?"

    The subject is the mohel not anyone or anything else. People who want to switch the topic like to make a personal attack on anything in sight in order to deflect attention from the main problem. So sorry old boy, your red herring won't work, because the community is stuck with this fiasco.

    Obviously for the Chief Rabbi and the Beth Din it is something of "astonishingly high standards" why else would they even go to such lengths of issuing "A media statement issued jointly by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein and Rosh Beth Din Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, said the commission of enquiry would be headed by retired Justice Phillip Levinsohn, former Deputy Judge
    President of KwaZulu-Natal."?

    Obviously it's VERY serious man! But the Chief and the Rosh also have a famous record and unlimited capacity for cover-ups, that while that may have been a workable tactic in times gone by, it does NOT work in the age of the Internet about which Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg says, "the Age of Privacy is OVER"!

    So instead of of trying to "blend in" and messing around with commissions and bringing in a judge from KwaZulu of all places, let the mohel follow the steps I have outlined above and it will bring things to closure in a way that will bring shalom with dignity for all concerned!
  5. 14 David Blend 25 Jul
    @ Samuel   --  I give up Samuel , your blinkers are on way too tight for meaningful debate.
  6. 13 gabi 01 Aug
    I am terribly sorry for that child and his family, and future. It is a terrible thing to have happened. However, before we start pointing fingers and falsely accusing our chief for conspiring to hide from us, I ask you to consider the following. For many years this mohel practiced without causing injury. Something went wrong and I am certain that he is living with tremendous guilt for what happened as i know he would not want to hurt an innocent baby. It is not for us to judge. And disclosure of his identity is irrelevant. It could have been and could still be any rav who makes an error, the one in a million at any point! We have to trust that everything comes from HaShem. Good bad and ugly and the only thing we should be asking for in this situation is clarity to understand that. Things like this happen. We don't know how God runs His world, but we have to respect it. Not to say we should deal with things appropriately, because our Chief is handling the situation. But we need to remember what it means to be appropriate. Emotions often hinder our our ability to react appropriately. This should not concern anyone other than the family, mohel and beis din. Think of the child's future... if word gets out who and what, he starts off his life, not only with a physical ailment, but a reputation. WE can control and protect the latter, and it is our responsibility to protect this baby by davening for him and not publishing what has happened. Just think about it.
  7. 12 david 07 Aug
    @Gabi  -  please correct me if I am wrong -- Are you saying  quote' if word gets out who and what, he starts off his life, not only with a physical ailment, but a reputation' Are you saying he will be looked down on as a Jewish male as being incomplete ?   If so I am saddened for entire Jewish future, with people like yourself interpreting a pure unintended human, mistake as a mark on the child's future as an adult Jewish man. Davening for him will not help, but understanding and accepting that this child will be no different to you. He will simply have a different scar,to you . 
    This whole conversation anyway, is a mere storm in a teacup, and should not even be happening.
  8. 11 Brad 09 Aug
    Where was Hashem when the procedure was botched?  It's time for everyone to wake up and realise how barbaric a practice it is. It is old fashioned and archaic! Thank g-d they have reduced the practice of sucking the boys penis and spitting out the foreskin. Luckily I had 2 girls, but if i had, had a boy, it would have been a nerve block and a urologist.  Screw Halachic, Shmalachic, Hashem would have applauded me for being free thinking and progressive.  Too many barbaric acts are carried through in the name of g-d.  Enough is enough!
  9. 10 Shelley 11 Aug
    In Sydney, only a mohel who is a medical doctor is permitted by law to do a Brit. Perhaps one should look into this in SA to minimise botched accidents.
  10. 9 Akiva 12 Aug
    Brad writes "Screw Halachic, Shmalachic".
    And then he writes God as "g-d", as if it means something, as if God would care.
    The irony...
  11. 8 Sam 18 Aug
    Brad, I agree with you. This secrecy and cloak and dagger "cult" nonsense must come to an end. Only a mohel who is a medical doctor should be allowed to perform the ritual as is required by tradition. But maybe it is time to see if this barbaric ritual is really necessary at all.

    Leave out the name of the injured party and that of his family if it is deemed necessary to protect the child, however, a full disclosure of the mohel's name and an immediate ban on further practicing the ritual should be imposed.

    David Blend who was first to comment above said "The days of 'Old Wise Bearded Men' making our decisions for us, are historical and over". So, unless we have full disclosure immediately, then I am afraid he is right and we need to take our religious blinkers off and we have to move forward on that basis. How can we ever trust what we are told if there is going to be a cover up and secrecy? Think carefully of your answer as next time it might be your son or grandson that is harmed - intentionally or by accident!
  12. 7 ValMel 20 Aug
    Shame on you Sam for your last sentence.  How dare you even suggest that a mohel will harm a child intentionally.
    How long has this mohel been qualified, and how many mishaps has he had?  Don't judge others before you know the facts.
  13. 6 Suzanne 20 Aug
    This mohel has made one error in his entire career. Only one. And he is no longer performing milah.

    When a medical doctor messes up a procedure, leaves scarring, or defaces somebody, and it happens - do we call for an and to barbaric medical procedures? Do these doctors stop practicing?

    Such nonsense this is.

    How many thousands of medical procedures go wrong every year, at the hands of medical doctors?
  14. 5 Sam 21 Aug
    To Val and Suzanne who commented on the 20 Aug.
    You both seem to know more then anyone else about this incident. Why don't you two disclose the 'facts' as you know then? Without the facts (truth in this case) being known you have both suggested that this 'Mohel' has now only made only one error in his career. If you know more of this individuals career record let everyone know - then we can judge him fairly. But I still would not want him to perform any procedure again. Certainly not until HE speaks out and gives his explanation which is made public including the identification of who he is - so other new parents can decide if they will use him or not.

    When medical doctors mess up - yes, we do call them barbaric, but, the law allows that there are proceedures in place to have the doctor identified and sanctioned if he is guilty.  Those places are called courts of law and the Medical council. Processes are not hidden behind closed doors to protect each other from being exposed. The facts are not hidden, and the doctor can be barred from his profession for negligence. Do you think it appropriate to drag this 'Mohel' into the open courts to get the truth out, or are you still protecting him because you cannot have blinkers removed?
  15. 4 Suzanne 21 Aug
    And do you not have confidence in our rabbinic leadership?
  16. 3 valmel 22 Aug
    Sam, my son-in-law is one of the leading mohels in the USA. In 28 years he has B'H not botched one circumcision. You are at liberty of course to choose any mohel you like, and hopefully he will not "intentionally" hurt your baby as intimated on your letter of 18th August and which remark disgusts me and which was the reason I wrote originally.
  17. 2 Sam 22 Aug
    I do not have any confidence in any matter that is not transparent and where there is evidence of a possible cover up or some sort of cloak and dagger style undercover inquiry! And besides, their decision is full and final and NOT to be questioned. That in itself makes any decision they take while under cover - suspect. So, that is what makes the judicial system more preferable.

    You are forgetting that a little boy has been injured to the extent that he may have a life long disability. He needs to be given compensation in a proper court of law. He may still be able to do so years down the line too if this matter is not hidden and buried to protect certain individuals. And for that you think I should trust our rabbinic leadership who are to hold a secret closed door 'commission of inquiry'? What about the child? Have you somehow brushed him aside for the sake of not wanting to rock the boat? Shame on you!!!! Shame on you!!
  18. 1 Shmuel 17 May
    It's amazing to hear these critical comments. No one would make these types of comments about a surgeon who made a mistake while following standard practices.  


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