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.

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
via KrustyKhajiit / YouTube

Thomas F. Wilson played one of the most recognizable villains in film history, Biff Tannen, in the "Back to the Future" series. So, understandably, he gets recognized wherever he goes for the iconic role.

The attention must be nice, but it has to get exhausting answering the same questions day in and day out about the films. So Wilson created a card that he carries with him to hand out to people that answers all the questions he gets asked on a daily basis.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Sometimes a politician says or does something so brazenly gross that you have to do a double take to make sure it really happened. Take, for instance, this tweet from Lauren Witzke, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware. Witzke defeated the party's endorsed candidate to win the primary, has been photographed in a QAnon t-shirt, supports the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was a U.S. government inside operation, and has called herself a flat earther.

So that's neat.

Witzke has also proposed a 10-year total halt on immigration to the U.S., which is absurd on its face, but makes sense when you see what she believes about immigrants. In a tweet this week, Witzke wrote, "Most third-world migrants can not assimilate into civil societies. Prove me wrong."

First, let's talk about how "civil societies" and developing nations are not different things, and to imply that they are is racist, xenophobic, and wrong. Not to mention, it has never been a thing to refer people using terms like "third-world." That's a somewhat outdated term for developing nations, and it was never an adjective to describe people from those nations even when it was in use.

Next, let's see how Twitter thwapped Lauren Witzke straight into the 21st century by proving her wrong in the most delicious way. Not only did people share how they or their relatives and friends have successfully "assimilated," but many showed that they went way, way beyond that.

Keep Reading Show less
via WatchMojo / YouTube

There are two conflicting viewpoints when it comes to addressing culture from that past that contains offensive elements that would never be acceptable today.

Some believe that old films, TV shows, music or books with out-of-date, offensive elements should be hidden from public view. While others think they should be used as valuable tools that help us learn from the past.

Keep Reading Show less