Jewish leaders stress vaccinations are not against Jewish teachings

Measles outbreaks have affected orthodox Jewish communities in New York

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – After outbreaks of measles in orthodox Jewish communities in New York, local Jewish leaders are speaking out to dispel the notion that getting vaccinated is against the Jewish faith.

Rabbi Yossie Denburg, from Chabad of Coral Springs, said the news reports about the outbreaks may be coloring people's perceptions of Jewish people, particularly Orthodox Jews.

"One of my sons just flew down from New York for the Passover break. As he's standing in Fort Lauderdale at the airport, a woman recognizes, 'Oh my God,' she's standing next to an Orthodox Jew with my son and his hat and his beard and his jacket, and she looks at him, and she, like, takes two steps away, and she says, 'Are you vaccinated?'" Denburg said.

He wants to set the record straight.

In the cases of outbreaks in Brooklyn and Rockland County, New York, some of the people infected had recently come from Israel, which is also experiencing outbreaks of the disease. 

Some Orthodox Jews do believe that vaccinations are against Jewish law. However, Denburg and others said they are a small minority and their views do not reflect Jewish teaching.

"The idea that Judaism would allow nonvaccinations is not agreed to by any serious scholar," Denburg said.

Denburg said most religious Jews are vaccinated and there is nothing in Judaism that says they cannot.

"Ninety-nine percent of all religious Jews are vaccinated, but no one is doing a story about them. Everyone is doing the story about the 1% or the .001% that are not," Denburg said.

Still, several Jewish schools in our area have recently implemented similar rules to public schools, requiring vaccines for entry, to make sure everyone is safe.

"The greatest reason, I think, for vaccines -- even if you happen to be one of the anti-vaxers -- is do it for your community, and I think that is really a Jewish approach," Denburg said. 

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