Although he stood next to speakers claiming the opposite, Bill de Blasio insists his position has not changed on the city’s controversial regulation of a ritual circumcision practice.
At a gigantic get-out-the vote rally in Williamsburg’s Hasidic community last night, where leaders vowed to deliver 10,000 votes for his front-running mayoral campaign, two community leaders declared that Mr. de Blasio was set to eliminate the consent forms required for metzitzah b’peh, a practice involving a mohel sucking blood from the wound, which the city’s health department says can spread disease.
According to video of the event posted Sunday night, one leader said Mr. de Blasio was “the first one in politics to come to our defense on the issue of metzitzah b’peh. And he’s the only candidate that recommitted himself now to guarantee that we as Orthodox Jews can practice [it] without compromise.”
After Mr. de Blasio has finished his speech, a second leader approached the microphone and said he’d been asked “to announce to our community” that Mr. de Blasio was “the only mayor candidate that promised … it will be eliminated!”
Mr. de Blasio did not interject or offer a clarification in his remarks, which touched on the need for more affordable housing and childcare vouchers. But afterwards, a spokesman for the campaign said Mr. de Blasio’s position on the issue had not changed from the one he’s maintained throughout the campaign: consent forms should remain in place while opening up dialogue to search for a better solution.
At a campaign stop on the Upper West Side this afternoon, Mr. de Blasio reiterated his stance–and claimed he hadn’t heard the rabbis’ full remarks at the chaotic rally.
“I think we need a better approach–in fact one that will help to protect the safety of our children,” he told Politicker. “I don’t think the current approach of just having a form is particularly high-impact.”
Michael Tobman, a spokesman for the Aronite Satmar faction that Mr. de Blasio was addressing, said that was, indeed, correct.
“Last night’s rally, including the remarks on bris milah, were to convey de Blasio’s sensitivity and commitment to the community. No specific policies were discussed in meetings in the past several weeks other than to indicate sensitivity and a willingness to engage the community on these issues,” Mr. Tobman said.
Other candidates have also addressed this issue, which has become a major controversy in the city’s Orthodox Jewish community, symbolizing the extent to which the government encroaches on tradition.
At another Satmar rally last month, organized by the Zalmanite faction, former Comptroller Bill Thompson personally promised his administration would “revisit” the consent form, arguing it “infringed on religious beliefs that have stood for thousand of years.”
With additional reporting by Jill Colvin.