Anti-vaccine Protest Planned For Orthodox Health Event In Brooklyn

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    BROOKLYN (JTA) – A conference for Orthodox medical professionals that aims to improve healthcare literacy in the community is drawing backlash from anti-vaccine activists, who are also planning a protest.

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    The conference, set to take place at a hotel in the heavily Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, will cover a broad range of topics — including vaccination, community healthcare, long COVID and the return of infectious diseases such as polio. The conference, with an expected attendance of some 100 to 150 people, is approved as a continuing education course for medical professionals and is sponsored by multiple medical providers and community organizations.

    The gathering comes after years of low vaccination rates in the city’s haredi Orthodox community, driven in part by misinformation, a lack of resources and mistrust in a city government that some felt had targeted Orthodox Jews. Recent years have also seen a current of anti-vaccine activism by some haredi Jews, in partnership with other anti-vaccine activists, despite repeated calls by a range of leading haredi rabbis to get vaccinated.

    “There is so much mistrust right now across the globe, but very heavily in the Orthodox community right now,” Blimi Marcus, an Orthodox nurse and president of the Emes Initiative, a co-sponsor of the event, told the New York Jewish Week. “COVID caused a lot of additional mistrust that existed beforehand. People had a hard time with changing guidelines, mixed messaging, and feeling targeted by policies that were directed at specific communities.”

    At that time, Williamsburg, which is home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish populations in the state, had the city’s lowest rate of polio vaccination, with 56.3% of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years having had three doses of the vaccine, according to the New York Citywide Immunization Registry.

    Some members of Orthodox communities campaigned against COVID vaccinations as well, despite the admonitions of community leaders, while others hesitated to get the shot due to fears that it would adversely affect fertility. At present, some Hasidic neighborhoods in Brooklyn, including Borough Park and Williamsburg, have among the lowest levels of COVID vaccination in the city.

    And in 2019, haredi Orthodox communities in the state experienced a measles outbreak that was tied to low vaccination rates. That outbreak also saw the growth of a vocal anti-vaccination campaign among Orthodox Jews.

    Anti-vax activists are raising their voices against Sunday’s event as well. A flier has surfaced over the past week that is calling the event a “terrible Chilul Hashem,” or desecration of God’s name.

     

    “People who deny that [God] created the world are scheduled to speak to the frum community at The Williamsburg Hotel,” the flier said, using a Jewish term connoting Orthodoxy. “Please help avert this terrible Chilul Hashem. Rabbonim [rabbis] have requested that whoever can possibly come, should join to stand up for Kavod Shamiyim,” or the honor of heaven.

    A leading voice against the protests has been a blogger who goes by the name of Boruch Weiss. Weiss has written multiple articles calling the event “an atheist convention,” and did not respond to a request for comment.

    “It must be noted that the beliefs espoused at this convention are a lot closer to Nazi ideology than they are to Judaism,” Weiss wrote. “It would be remiss not to mention that it was precisely this sort of ideology that led to the atrocities.”

    “This is one of the first times we’re bringing together most of the ultra-Orthodox providers from different communities around the tristate area,” Marcus said.

    At the height of the pandemic in 2020, many in the city’s Orthodox community felt unfairly targeted by COVID restrictions that closed schools, parks and houses of worship. Orthodox protesters in Brooklyn burned masks and, at one point, cornered, mobbed and threatened a Hasidic reporter.

    “A lot of people have taken all of this and come away with the message that no one is to be trusted except ourselves,” Marcus said. “They don’t want to hear from anyone that has beliefs that are different from theirs.”

    Marcus said that Sunday’s event is “open to people from the Jewish community and beyond.”

    “We can always learn from each other,” Marcus said. “Vaccine hesitancy is not limited to the Orthodox community. By far, it’s a global public health problem.”


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    39 Comments
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    Yankel
    Yankel
    1 year ago

    Anti-vaccine? You mean like anti-POLIO, anti-MEASLES, anti-Hepititis, anti-Small Pox, etc.?

    Lgb
    Lgb
    1 year ago

    Where does it say anti vaccine?

    If it’s anti the Covid vaccine specifically, I’m all for it

    Ari
    Ari
    1 year ago

    The protest is not against vaccines.

    Its against an event that has Science Saves/Center for Inquiry listed as a host. They are an anti-Torah, anti-Hashem organization.

    The article is false.

    False alarm
    False alarm
    1 year ago

    This article completely ignores the fact that there will be pro-abortion talks.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    1 year ago

    This Weiss , robo calls for other issues and has attacked the new sefer which published Chumash & Rashi a few months ago. Under whose authority does he call ?

    R. Moshe
    R. Moshe
    1 year ago

    The emphasis on Jews and vaccinations is very impressive when you consider the tens of thousands of illegals arriving through the Southern border. Do they really present no risk and only Jews present risks?
    For the record, I am not aware of Jews that avoid Polio vaccines while that is rampant in the new immigrants.

    eliya
    eliya
    1 year ago

    this weiss guy is referring to Dr. Peter Hotez who is supposed to be speaking at the conference about the subject “Science and Anti-Science Trends: A Growing Infodemic”. supposedly his opinion on this topic is all kefira

    A concerned yid
    A concerned yid
    1 year ago

    It is not too late to be on the right side of history and publish the truth of who and what agenda is behind this so called educational conference

    lastword
    Noble Member
    lastword
    1 year ago

    Vaccinology is a flawed and fraudulent attempt at responsible medicine. See Dr. Suzanne Humphries recent work for instance: ‘Dissolving Illusions’. The ‘anti-vax’ literature is actually quite rich, yet it is often only found ‘off the beaten track’, as much effort has been expended for over 200 years to suppress ‘vaccine’ and ‘inoculation’ naysayers by the pharmaceutical industry and other derelicts of their ilk and stature. Traditional modalities in medicine never advocated for invasive and damaging vaccinations.

    Emes01
    Emes01
    1 year ago

    My chidren are up to date on all their shots. Is that a religious issue now? Do I need to ask my Rov before getting them any more shots?

    JustTalk
    JustTalk
    1 year ago

    This is the most confusing gathering and confusing protest. No one actually understands what’s actually happening.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    1 year ago

    Of course, the propagandists don’t mention that the single case of polio to which they refer happened only because someone who had just taken the “old” version of the Polio vaccine came from Israel (what a backwater “country”) and spread Polio here from the vaccine that he got.

    Educated Archy
    Educated Archy
    1 year ago

    I don’t understand. Do people who cv”s have cancer refuse to use drs who are atheists if they provide good care? Whats wrong with an atheist speaking abouit vaccines? Don’t get me wrong you have full rights to refuse the vaccine and shouldnt be forced to take it. But stop making this like it’s part of Judaism. Its an ideological debate independent of Judaism. Note, yes goivt shut downs is yes dependent on judaism because a yiddisha child doesn’t use the interent for remote learning and a children need in person classes. Adults need minyan and its just part of our culture. But vaccines aren’t part of any jewish or religious aspect. So please keep religon out of the debate but feel free to protest taking it.

    Last edited 1 year ago by
    A concerned yid
    A concerned yid
    1 year ago

    This is not an anti vaxxer protest. It’s a pro G-d and pro Torah protest

    Judith
    Judith
    1 year ago

    More evidence that secular education is necessary n be

    hard at work yeshiva grad
    hard at work yeshiva grad
    1 year ago

    evreewon shud bee having a buuster shot twentee times a week, if they doo not it is becsus they doo not hav an edookaytion like me. i did not hav won and nevir new abut molekyooles, vakksines, or calorees so i am fat and onlee lernt that we al need too bee vaxxed eech day later,, plees feel soree for mee