The measles outbreak has hit New York City. Literature targeting Orthodox Jews is behind it.

The first major measles outbreak in New York State this year may have started in upstate New York, but it’s officially reached the epicenter — New York City.

For several months, officials in New York City have been encouraging members of ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in the Brooklyn area of New York City to vaccinate their children in an attempt to squash the rapidly growing number of measles cases in the region. In addition to providing education about the vaccine and talking to local rabbis, they have also tried keeping unvaccinated children from attending school.

Despite those efforts, there have been 285 confirmed cases of the infection since September with 21 of them leading to hospitalization. It’s the largest measles outbreak the city has seen in over three decades. So this week, officials took a more staunch approach — Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency.


As part of the increased efforts to eradicate the outbreak, the mayor announced that those who refuse to comply with the required vaccinations will face some legal consequences: violations will be issued, and some may incur fines of up to $1,000. As of today, the order targets four zip codes where the outbreak seems to be centralized.

Some individuals claim that vaccinations go against their religion, and the order is unconstitutional. That, however, isn’t deterring Mayor de Blasio from towing a hard line in this worrisome situation.

“This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately,” de Blasio said during a press conference. “The measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time-tested.”

Health officials claim they won’t randomly perform spot checks on students as part of the enforcement. Instead, if a new case of measles is detected, they will look into the vaccination records of all individuals in contact with the infected person. They hope this stringency along with the imposed fines will encourage more people to get vaccinated.

While the outbreak is scary, the entire Orthodox community isn’t to blame. Only a small percentage Orthodox Jews in the area are against vaccinations.

According to the New York Times, most religious leaders in the community do not back anti-vaccination beliefs. Instead, they have been perpetuated by a grassroots movement that may have started with the distribution of a propaganda handbook created by a group called Parents Educating and Advocating for Children’s Health (Peach). The handbook makes many false claims about vaccines, saying they cause autism, contain cells from aborted human fetuses and defy the Kosher diet.

“Vaccines contain monkey, rat and pig DNA as well as cow-serum blood, all of which are forbidden for consumption according to kosher dietary law,” Moishe Kahan, a contributing editor for Peach magazine, reportedly said in an email.

Despite the fact that most prominent rabbis maintain vaccines are Kosher, the literature seems to have still swayed a number of families.

The Times interviewed several rabbis and Jewish medical experts who attest to this, maintaining they have been working hard to educate and influence the people in their community who refuse vaccinations.

However, as has been seen in other areas of the country where measles outbreaks have occurred, those who are anti-vaccination aren’t quick to drop their beliefs. And the required vaccination mandate seems to have made them dig their heels in deeper.

“I don’t think it’s up to the city to mandate anything. We all have constitutional rights,” a mother-of-five who identified herself as Gitty, told the Times. She added that she refused to vaccinate any of her kids, referring to the act as “a medical procedure by force.” She added: “We are marginalized. Every minority that has a different opinion is marginalized.”

Another woman, whose interview outside of the mayor’s press conference was posted on Twitter, called the act “unethical,” maintaining the government has no right to force her to inject her children with medicine.

“This is my religious belief,” her friend, featured in a separate video interview, explained. “It comes along with whatever it comes along and we deal with whatever comes along with and I think I chose the better part of it, because my kids have measles for life,”  she exclaimed.

There are even claims that “measles parties” are being held in the community, in order to expose children so that they can build up immunity and antibodies.

Spreading a potentially deadly disease to other people shouldn’t be anyone’s right.

According to the CDC, the measles vaccination is not 100 percent effective. One dose is about 93 percent, while two offers 97 percent effectiveness. So just because someone is vaccinated doesn’t mean they’re totally immune to the disease.

Refusing to get vaccinated, regardless of the reason, is putting other people’s health and lives at risk, no matter how you slice it. New York City’s approach to the measles outbreak might seem extreme, but at this point, it’s necessary to stop this outbreak once and for all.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Ndakasi and Virunga National Park ranger André Bauma.

Fourteen years ago, Ndakasi the mountain gorilla was found clinging to her dead mother in the Congo after bushmeat hunters wiped out her entire family. This week it was announced that she recently passed away in the arms of Virunga National Park ranger André Bauma, the man who rescued her.

Bauma served as Ndakasi's caretaker since he brought her to the park's Senkwekwe Center, where she was rehabilitated along with another orphaned gorilla named Ndeke. Unable to be safely returned to the wild, Ndakasi lived her life in Virunga, where mountain gorilla conservation is a priority.

The park shared a touching photo and announcement of Ndakasi's passing on Facebook. The gorilla had been suffering from a prolonged illness, and her condition had rapidly deteriorated. A photo shows Bauma sitting on a blanket leaning up against the wall with Ndakasi lying next to him, her head on his chest and her toes gripping his boot.

"Ndakasi took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, André Bauma," reads the post.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!