Tuesday, April 9, 2019

‘Monkey, Rat and Pig DNA’: How Misinformation Is Driving the Measles Outbreak Among Ultra-Orthodox Jews

'The Vaccine Safety Handbook” appears innocuous, a slick magazine for parents who want to raise healthy children. But tucked inside its 40 pages are false warnings that vaccines cause autism and contain cells from aborted human fetuses.
“It is our belief that there is no greater threat to public health than vaccines,” the publication concludes, contradicting the scientific consensus that vaccines are generally safe and highly effective.
The handbook, created by a group called Parents Educating and Advocating for Children’s Health, or Peach, is targeted at ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose expanding and insular communities are at the epicenter of one of the largest measles outbreaks in the United States in decades.


  1. "What we have here is a failure to think." (To paraphrase the famous line from "Cool Hand Luke".)

    There is an insidious and intellectual combustible combination that leads to disaster.

    Recipe for Disaster
    Ingredient #1: A respect for science
    Ingredient #2: A lack of understanding what science is
    Ingredient #3: A lack of understanding the limitations of science
    Ingredient #4: A lack of being able to evaluate the methods and conclusions of a scientific study and it's conclusions
    Ingredient #5: A lack of respect for anyone trying to counteract Ingredients #2-4

    Mix well inside one mind. Add an article that purports to be scientific but is not.


    At a later time I will add to this comment and explain in detail how each ingredient plays a role in the disaster recipe.

  2. Kalonymus AnonymusApril 10, 2019 at 1:20 AM

    Is there a more pernicious reason behind this? Since hareidi mentality is idealizing and idolizing the bad old days of the shtetl, when there were no vaccines and it was routine for all families to lose children to disease - then maybe they are harking back to better times - no science, no democracy, no universities, no Zionism, but only the shtetl and yeshiva, and they had what they believed was G-d's protection.

    Rejecting a vaccine reinforces their primitive and ignorant belief that their rebbes are all knowing and have Divine power behind them.

  3. I don't think there's a pernicious reason.

    Well, no, I take that back.

    Following authority is a lot easier when the follower does not exercise their ability to think independently and critically.

    The leadership of a community that depends on unthinking allegiance has a vested interest in keeping their community unthinking.

    Now, I contend that an effective way to counter an anti-vaxxer' s argument is by someone thinking on their own. But having this ability would undermine the leadership.

    Thus, the leadership would rather have their followers succumb to anti-vax propaganda than to teach the community how to think and stand up to that propaganda. Because teaching the community to think straight could prime the community to question their leaders.

  4. I think it's far simpler:
    Ingredient #1: It's us and them
    Ingredient #2: They are always out to get us.
    Ingredient #3: They want to give us vaccines
    Therefore, vaccines are evil and must be avoided.

  5. I think I incorporate that idea into Ingredient #5 of the Recipe for Disaster.

    In any case, I'm going to borrow your Surround the Wagons Recipe and use it as the secret sauce.

    Good cooks should always share formulae!

  6. Vaccine Hotline 212 390 8896
    speeches by doctors and Rabbis



  8. I love your dish as well. Perhaps we should open a cafe on Geulah.

  9. Thank you, Berel, for bringing the Vaccine Hotline to my attention. I called the number and learned something new and interesting.

    I then went online to find corroborating evidence for the allegations I learned about. I was surprised to find out that vaccines have a more checkered past than I was aware of.

  10. Divine Power !

    The pamphlet quotes rabbis Shmuel Kamenetsky and Chaim Kanievsky saying that yeshivas should allow unvaccinated children to attend. Kanievsky is one of Israel’s most revered rabbis; Kamenetsky leads a major ultra-Orthodox yeshiva, and is a member of the rabbinical leadership council of Agudath Israel of America, a major umbrella organization and advocacy group for Orthodox Jews.

    Kamenetsky is a longtime critic of vaccines. The Forward reported in 2014 that he had called vaccines a “hoax.” -Josh Nathan-Kazis

  11. A 25-year-old mother of four who gave her name as Breindy told The Post she decided not to vaccinate her kids after “a friend forwarded me a PDF of the handbook.”

    “When I read through it, it confirmed a lot of things I’d been suspicious about,” she said. Breindy also said she was heavily influenced by the rabbis mentioned in the pamphlet, (rabbis Shmuel Kamenetsky and Chaim Kanievsky) calling them “Gedolei HaDor,” Hebrew for “greatest of their generation.”

    “These aren’t just local no-name rabbis,” she said.


  12. Kalonymus AnonymusApril 11, 2019 at 12:51 PM

    Look at how life was in the shtetl

  13. Kalonymus AnonymusApril 11, 2019 at 2:50 PM

    I mean when families would lose several children to various diseases. Smallpox is now eradicated, and cholera is not common at all. But there are other diseases which still exist. I have had bad reactions to vaccines myself, so i am not saying they are perfectly safe.

  14. Ah, now I get it.

    Sorry about your bad reactions.

    I'm actually working to rebuild a kind of Shtetl life. Our way may lead to some illness -- although I hope not -- but it sure beats people losing or never having children to begin with because women sterilize themselves and kill their babes (birth control and abortion).

  15. Kalonymus AnonymusApril 11, 2019 at 3:38 PM

    And your recipe for disaster?

  16. People in our Shtetl think and act independently. So I think we'll have a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in it.

    And there are legitimate arguments that support both sides. There is no one right answer. Despite the unscientific approach of many anti-vaxxers, that doesn't diminish the logic behind not vaccinating.

  17. Kalonymus AnonymusApril 12, 2019 at 12:15 AM

    Shtetl thinking

    You see it is causing anti-Semitism as well. As soon as the first goyisher child G-d forbid dies form one of these diseases, they will start blaming the Jews again.

  18. Somehow, that wouldn't happen because of my Shtetl. We would quarantine unvaccinated children during an outbreak.


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