Tens of thousands of religious Jews who decided to spend Passover at a crowded hotel with their families are worrying about the measles outbreak.
By Clark Savage, Jr.
As a result, program organizers across the Greater New York City region have been working hard to know – in most cases, of course, they can’t – that their clients are not carrying the disease.
More than one told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that they were asking their guests to be vaccinated before they arrive at the hotel.
“We notified all the people that if they are not taking shots, they cannot come to our hotel,” Rabbi Motty Katz, manager of the Katz Pesach program at the Long Island Hilton in Huntington, New York, told JTA. “We’re going to be very strict on that. If you don’t take a shot, don’t go to a public place.”
“Our guests are not coming from any of the Hasidic communities, so the other communities are very much in favor of it,” Rabbi Yitzchok Neger, one of the managers of the Passover program at the Wyndham Golf Resort in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, told Vos Iz Neias. “A lot of our people are coming from places where the rabbis sent a letter to everyone that they should be vaccinated. Some of the shuls here had free clinics.”
Over one hundred thousand Jews across the planet, most of them Orthodox, will be spending Passover at a hotel, reports Raphi Bloom, who founded TotallyJewishTravel.com, a website that serves as a clearinghouse for Passover vacation bookings.
L’via Weisinger, a member of Emes, a group comprised of Orthodox nurses that encourages vaccination, told Vos Iz Neias, “You don’t have a right as a citizen to go to a Pesach hotel,” she said. “It’s private, so if they say ‘Unless you’re vaccinated, you’re not welcome,’ there’s nothing wrong with that. Here’s your money back. Whatever. With people mingling from all different communities, from all different programs, all different places, it’s like [opening] a feather pillow [and] gathering all those feathers back.”
With the lack of vaccinations in the religious community at the heart of the problem, Agudath Israel of America released a statement saying its leadership is “deeply concerned about the recent outbreak of measles and the threat it poses to communities around the country. For that reason, countless rabbinical figures and leaders, including leading rabbis in the Agudath Israel movement and doctors serving these communities, have repeatedly encouraged vaccination in the strongest possible terms. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of children enrolled in Jewish schools are vaccinated. Governmental records indicate that the measles vaccination rates in yeshivos in Williamsburg, Borough Park and across New York State are high, with yeshiva averages statewide exceeding 96%. Similarly high rates were obtained in areas around the country with large Jewish populations. While vaccination rates in certain schools and for preschoolers may be lower, vaccination is the clear societal norm in Orthodox Jewish communities.”