TRENTON — A circumcision ritual common among Orthodox Jewish communities such as Lakewood's could endanger newborns, and can occasionally be deadly, according to a reprort.

The ritual, called metzitzah b'peh, involves a rabbi sucking blood from a freshly made cut, symbolizing a purification of the genital area. It can potentially expose newborns to a fatal form of herpes.

The Asbury Park Press reported that the ritual has led to four deaths between 1999 and 2015. In, New York State there have been 24 infant herpes cases linked to the ritual since 2000, according to the report. It says New Jersey has no safety protocols for the practice.

The report said the risk is increased because many adults unknowingly carry a form of herpes in their bodies. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1 out of every 6 people in the United States ages 18 to 49 has a form of the disease, which can manifest as genital sores or mouth sores, or which can present no symptoms.

Sen. Robert Singer is proposing a bill that would require rabbis to be tested for herpes, the Asbury Park Press report said. But Orthodox Jewish leaders in Lakewood, which has a birth rate four times higher than the state's birth rate, do not support Singer's bill and believe it would interfere with the religious freedom.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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