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Lawsuit claims Squirrel Hill rabbi botched 8-day-old's circumcision

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Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 12:18 p.m.
 

A Squirrel Hill rabbi botched a ritual circumcision, causing a “catastrophic and life-changing injury” to an 8-day-old boy, his parents claim in a civil lawsuit filed this week.

Attorney Neil Rosen, who represents the mother, father and child identified by initials in the complaint, called the incident “unimaginable” but declined further comment. Rosen said he used his clients' initials to protect the identity of the child, now 8 months old.

The lawsuit filed on Tuesday says Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg, 54, performed a ritual circumcision on the boy on April 28, as required by Jewish custom. Rosenberg, an Orthodox mohel — or ritual circumciser — referred calls to his attorneys at the Downtown law firm Weber Gallagher, who did not return calls.

The suit does not specify the child's injuries but claims Rosenberg acted “with a total disregard” for the boy.

The parents, who witnessed what happened, rushed their son to Children's Hospital for emergency reconstructive surgery and leech therapy, the lawsuit says.

Carrie Sorenson, a clinical pharmacist at St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck, N.D., said leeches help a body accept reattached parts by promoting blood flow and tissue regeneration. The baby required several follow-up visits, the lawsuit says.

Rosenberg's website says he was trained by rabbis in Pittsburgh and Jerusalem and is recognized as a certified mohel by the American Board of Ritual Circumcision in New York. Rabbi Avrohom Cohen, board chairman, did not return calls.

Mohels are not certified by a government agency because circumcision is considered a religious ceremony and not a medical procedure.

Mistakes are relatively uncommon and infant circumcisions are generally complication-free, said Rabbi Julie Pelc Adler, chair of the Reform Judaism movement's circumcision training and certification program in Los Angeles.

The Reform and Conservative Judaism movements certify licensed physicians to perform ritual circumcisions rather than clergy members, as the Orthodox do, Adler said.

“While the vast majority has probably never had this kind of horrific outcome, you can't predict to whom and when a mistake like this is going to happen,” she said.

Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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