Anti-vaccine activists are protesting the conference for Orthodox medical professionals, which aims to raise community awareness of healthcare literacy.
The conference at a hotel in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, home to many Hasidic people, will cover various subjects, such as immunization, community healthcare, lengthy COVID, and the resurgence of infectious illnesses like polio.
The conference is approved as a continuing education event for medical professionals and is sponsored by several healthcare providers and civic organizations.
It is anticipated that between 100 and 150 individuals will attend.
The event follows years of poor vaccination rates in the city’s haredi Orthodox community, caused mainly by erroneous information, a lack of resources, and mistrust of a municipal administration that some felt had targeted Orthodox Jews.
Even though some prominent haredi rabbis have repeatedly urged their followers to get immunized, there has been a recent upsurge in anti-vaccine advocacy among some haredi Jews working with other anti-vaccine activists.
Blimi Marcus, an Orthodox nurse and the head of the Emes Initiative, a co-sponsor of the event, told the New York Jewish Week that there is “so much mistrust right now across the globe, but very heavy in the Orthodox community right now.”
“The mistrust that had existed before COVID was significantly increased. Individuals struggled.
An Orthodox Jewish man from Rockland County was diagnosed with polio last year, marking the first time in nearly ten years that the disease had returned to the United States.
A month later, polio was discovered in New York City wastewater, and state and city health officials advised the public to get immunized.
According to the New York Citywide Immunization Registry, Williamsburg, which is home to one of the state’s largest Orthodox Jewish populations, they had the city’s lowest rate of polio vaccination at the time, with only 56.3% of kids between the ages of 6 months and five years having received three doses of the vaccine.
Despite the warnings of community leaders, some members of Orthodox groups also advocated against COVID vaccines. In contrast, others were hesitant to get shot out of concern that it might negatively impair fertility.
Borough Park and Williamsburg are two Hasidic areas of Brooklyn that now have some of the lowest rates of COVID immunization in the entire city.
Additionally, a measles outbreak in the state’s haredi Orthodox groups occurred in 2019 and was linked to poor vaccination rates. Orthodox Jews’ vociferous anti-vaccination crusade also gained traction during that outbreak.
Additionally, anti-vaccine advocates are speaking out against Sunday’s event. Over the past week, a flyer labeled the occasion a “terrible Chilul Hashem,” or profanation of God’s name.
The flier used a Jewish phrase for Orthodoxy that meant “people who deny that [God] created the world are scheduled to speak to the frum community at The Williamsburg Hotel.”
Please assist in stopping this horrible Chilul Hashem. Whoever can go has been invited by the rabbonim (rabbis) to join in defending Kavod Shamiyim, or the honor of heaven.
A blogger named Boruch Weiss has been a prominent opponent of the demonstrations.
Weiss has referred to the gathering in numerous pieces as “an atheist convention,” and he did not reply to a request for comment.
Marcus told the New York Jewish Week over the phone that despite the objections, “most people are looking forward” to the occasion.
She mentioned that prior demonstrations against related events had not attracted “much of a turnout,” even though security would be on hand.
According to Marcus, most of the ultra-Orthodox providers from various communities throughout the tristate area are being brought together for the first time.
Many members of the city’s Orthodox community believed COVID restrictions that closed schools, parks, and places of worship unfairly targeted them during the pandemic’s peak in 2020.
A Hasidic reporter was trapped, surrounded, and harassed by Orthodox protesters in Brooklyn while they burnt masks during their demonstration.