Why Measles is Hitting Us Again // An outbreak in Israel hopped the ocean and arrived in New York. Why has the frum community become a Typhoid Mary of modern times?

It’s happening again. The Jewish community has been hit with an outbreak of a contagious disease—this time, yet again, measles—that can be protected against with immunization. Public health officials are scrambling. And observers, both inside the community and outside, are asking: Why?

The question of where to lay the blame brought out a nasty back and forth in the Knesset this week. In a meeting of the parliament’s health committee, MK Yael German of Yesh Atid and MK Yulia Malinovski of Yisrael Beiteinu called for the government to do more to convince the chareidi community to immunize their children.

In response, Bayit Yehudi leader Shuli Moalem-Refaeli invoked ancient images of Jew hatred. “The anti-Semites in Europe once blamed the Jews for spreading the Black Plague. Now, MK Malinovski is blaming the chareidim for the measles. It is too bad that a meeting with national importance has stooped to a blame-fest.”

Malinovski responded that it was the Health Ministry, headed by Deputy Minister Yaakov Litzman, that had claimed that the outbreak was mostly among unimmunized chareidim. “Is the Health Ministry also anti-Semitic?” she asked.

That worrying outlook on the frum community is going on in the US, as well. Mrs. Chanie Sternberg is the CEO of Refuah Health Center, a major provider of healthcare in Rockland County, which was the first healthcare organization to spot a patient in the recent New York State outbreak of measles. She told Ami, in an interview, about a personal concern she had. “I think that there is a perception among the [health department] regulators that our high rate of non-immunization is consistent with us not caring for our children. That’s so opposite of the truth. But the chillul Hashem that’s caused by the results of these high rates of non-vaccination is very sad.”

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