Seventeen years ago, in response to a proposal from, and with the support of, leading lay and rabbinical leaders in the YU World, I initiated and guided (as Executive Chairman) a Modern Orthodox Think Tank called the 'Orthodox Roundtable.' The idea was to push back the frontiers of Halakhic discourse, engage issues that were being avoided, and provide a responsible, God-fearing Modern Orthodox approach to pressing halakhic issues.
During the five years that it functioned, the Roundtable managed to publish some truly ground-breaking papers on subjects like conversion and adoption, smoking, Child Abuse (by Rabbi Mark Dratch), The limits of Parental authority (by Rabbi Reuven Bulka). an annotated responsum by Rav Ovadia Yosef on enforcing sanctions against recalcitrant husbands (a collective effort of Rav Yosef, Rabbi Michael Broyde and myself) and a number of others. The response to our activities was mixed. There was a lot of lay and rabbinic support, and a lot of vitriolic dismay in other circles. Over time, for a combination of reasons, which I might yet write about, the Roundtable ceased operations in 1994.
One of the earliest pieces the Roundtable published was a learned, heavily documented, call for the use of a glass tube by mohalim for the oral suction the Talmud requires be applied to the wound after a Bris Milah (Metzitza). In light of the rise of AIDS and STD's, we thought that the issue wa a mix of Piqquah Nefesh and Qiddush HaShem. Our suggestion was summarily ignored (and not so politely) by muuch of the Orthodox community. Typically, the position was heard such problems belong in the non-religious community, NIMBY.
I"m bringing this up, because today's Jewish Week reports that the RCA has now endorsed the use of a glass tube for Bris Milah. The action comes in the wake of a scandal in New York in which a baby appears to have died from an infection contracted from a mohel who directly used his mouth. (Gil Student has all of the details.) On the one hand, I feel that we are now vindicated ( as we were on the issues of child abuse, adoption/conversion, recalcitrance etc.) I really applaud the RCA for showing leadership while the Haredi world is in deep denial. OTOH, the obtuse response to the Roundtable, in this case, was (at least, indirectly) responsible for a little baby's death. If there had been a responsible response to our call then, if using a glass tube had been required of all mohalim (at least in our circles) this baby might still be alive.
OTOH, the Commentator reports that Rabb M.D. Tendler was savaged by Yated Ne'eman for supporting the use of the tube. Plus ca change...