Measles outbreak: NY warns it could shut Jewish religious colleges

Measles outbreak: NY warns it could shut Jewish religious colleges April 9, 2019
Image via YouTube

ORTHODOX Jewish colleges (yeshivas) in Brooklyn have been warned that they could face closure if they allow pupils who have not been vaccinated against measles to attend classes.

The  New York City health department’s order to all yeshivas in Williamburg comes amid a measles outbreak, with 285 cases of the disease in Brooklyn and Queens since October – most of them involving members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

In a release issued yesterday, health authorities said:

Any school out of compliance will immediately be issued a violation.

The outbreak started when an unvaccinated child acquired measles on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak of the disease is occurring.

The department said:

Since then, there have been additional people from Brooklyn and Queens who were unvaccinated and acquired measles while in Israel.

Israel’s measles outbreak began in September after thousands of mostly Hasidic Orthodox pilgrims brought the virus back from Uman, Ukraine.

The vast majority of measles cases in Brooklyn and Queens are of children younger than 18 years.

Measles causes fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and rashes and with complications, can cause swelling of the brain and death.

In December, the health department issued its first mandatory directive that yeshivas and child care centres in parts of the Borough Park and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn must exclude students who had not received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

A month later, a yeshiva in Williamsburg fell out of compliance and allowed unvaccinated children back into school or child care. This single yeshiva is connected to more than 40 cases

Debates in the Orthodox Jewish community over vaccinations stem from Torah teachings that followers should not cause the body any damage since it is a gift from God.

But some New York rabbis have called parents to act and get their children vaccinated. Rabbi David Niederman, of north Brooklyn said:

It says in the Torah  … that a person must guard their health.It is abundantly clear on the necessity for parents to ensure that their children are vaccinated, especially from measles.

However, a similar bid to stop the spread of measles in New York’s Rockland County was dealt a blow last week when a state judge ruled that the county cannot ban unvaccinated minors from public spaces. Judge Rolf Thorsen ruled:

Children are hereby permitted to return to their respective schools forthwith and otherwise to assemble in public places.

The ban was announced in March in Rockland County after more than 150 measles cases were reported. It barred any resident of the county under 18 who had not yet been given the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine from public places such as schools and parks until either the end of the 30-day emergency declaration or until they received the vaccine.

In response, a group of parents filed a lawsuit calling the emergency declaration “arbitrary and capricious”.  They said the declaration had led to children being denied attendance at nursery programmess and school.

This has effectively prohibited their movement and denied them the right to congregate and assemble in public places.

Dori Reiss, a professor at UC Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, said that declaration was for a short enough period that it would likely not be worth the effort to fight the court ruling.

Existing law in New York  requires all children to receive certain immunisations for poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, HiB, hepatitis B and varicella.

But the law also provides an exemption when a physician certifies that the immunisation may be detrimental to a child’s health or whose parents “hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary” to the vaccination law.

Image via YouTube

Democratic Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, above, has sought to do just the opposite: He has supported adding more exemptions from vaccinations. He said lawmakers should not be looking to infringe on people’s religious beliefs when it comes to vaccines.

In a democracy, public health policy should not violate religious liberty.

See, it’s not just the Republicans who have religious idiots in public office.

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  • John Thunderer

    ‘Debates in the Orthodox Jewish community over vaccinations stem from
    Torah teachings that followers should not cause the body any damage
    since it is a gift from God.
    Yet, they happily perform male genital mutilation on infant boys.
    How do they square that with their Torah teachings?

  • barriejohn

    “genuine and sincere religious beliefs”

    Have we heard that somewhere before?

    I sometimes think that America is beyond help, but maybe it’s just the religious element!

  • Broga

    “He said lawmakers should not be looking to infringe on people’s religious beliefs when it comes to vaccines.”

    But it acceptable to allow members of this deranged cult to damage people’s health regardless of their faith or lack of it.

  • Freethinker

    If it takes measles to shut down a backward and philosophically toxic propaganda training center, so be it. The fact that vaccines which are a relatively new invention can have any connection to religious beliefs is ludicrous. But then again one set of superstitious beliefs unsupported by science and evidence opens small minds to others.

  • Jim Jones

    You’d think that after centuries of being slandered as ‘diseased’, Jews would avoid such situations.

  • Raymond Metcalfe

    So non of them smoke, are overweight drink to excess. they live in a city where I am guessing the air pollution form cars can be very bad. Yet you cant vaccinate the child because it causes damage to the body. That seems like typical religious logic to me

  • Raymond Metcalfe

    Jehovah witnesses refuse a blood transfusion a modern medical practice bases on an instruction not to eat blood. Religion and modern life saving medical practice clash and guess what religion wins

  • Catherine Spencer-Mills

    I remember getting vaccinations at school – specifically for smallpox. I do not recall any arguments about this. After all, smallpox has a 30% death rate before you count secondary infections. I think the only exemptions for vaccinations be for those with a verified immune disorder, your religious or philosophical beliefs be damned. But then, I had chickenpox at age 5, measles at 7 (which can also permanently damage your eyes), mumps at 12, and rubella at 13. I wouldn’t wish that on any child, no matter how nuts their parents are.

  • EllyR

    You are very kind and PC. Me, as a Jew, I can say that this is total religious and imbecilic rabies stupidity. Let them call me anti semitic if they want, I’m used to it.

  • EllyR

    Religions win and will keep winning as long as the civil law will allow them to win. Stupidity and primitivity cannot be outlawed but they can be made to pay taxes…

  • Andrea Fitzgerald


  • Raymond Metcalfe

    I am not always pc come and have a pint or two in my local sometime.

  • EllyR

    Gladly, but unless you live in the New Zealand South island, this will be very impractical…

  • Rennyrij

    For pity’s sake, isn’t Measles damaging to the body??? Inoculations do not cause damage. They prevent it. And John Thunderer has a very valid point, regarding circumcision. I think some parents are absolutely terrified that their children should be caused to cry for a few minutes – even if that few minutes might make all the difference as to whether the child’s life is ruined in the future by a bout with measles, mumps, diphtheria, whooping cough, or whatever. Sooner or later, pain is going to enter a child’s life. Let some of it, at least, be worth while. And don’t you think that the damage referred to in the Scripture is Permanent damage, as opposed to the Temporary discomfort of an inoculation?

  • barriejohn

    I wonder whether these people physically chastise their children? I know what the answer would be where Christian fundamentalists are concerned!