Orthodox Jewish Communities In New York Facing Wave Of Anti-Semitism As Measles Outbreak Escalates

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In Brooklyn, New York City, Hassidic communities have reportedly been the target of anti-Semitic acts as measles cases continue to rise, writes The Guardian. Of the almost 500 cases of measles in New York City, the majority have affected members of the Jewish Orthodox community in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood and Borough Park.

The community has been targeted by anti-vaccination propaganda that has taken advantage of their limited exposure to mainstream sources of information, which likely contributed to the lack of vaccination found within the community. However, amid the breakout, rabbis and community leaders have been joining together to convince parents to vaccinate their children, affirming that there is nothing in Jewish scripture that prohibits vaccinations.

Incidents of anti-Semitism provoked by the outbreak have been increasing, as community leaders allege that members have been facing discrimination based on the way they look while dealing with verbal insults in their day-to-day lives.

One incident involved a bus driver who allegedly refused to stop for a Hassidic man, and then when he eventually was able to board the bus, the driver shouted “measles!” at him and covered her face.

Another incident involved a temporary quarantine on an airplane when a flight crew reportedly noticed a Hassidic child covered in red spots and mistook them for measles. The spots were found to be caused by mosquito bites.

Additional incidents include alleged physical attacks on two Orthodox Jewish men walking down the street, and a volunteer emergency medical technician being shouted at to “go back to Israel” when attempting to help a non-Jewish resident.

Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, made a statement about the incidents happening in his community.

“There have been many incidents where there have been these antisemitic, biased slurs against members of the community. It’s like a license to be antisemitic and say what’s on your mind, and you don’t have to hide it.”

As the measles outbreak continues to rise, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an emergency order in April, requiring all residents of Williamsburg to be vaccinated against the measles or face a $1,000 fine.

This year, anti-Semitic hate crimes have surged in the surrounding area as well as nationally. Hate crimes have increased by 66 percent in New York City compared with the same period of the previous year, according to police statistics in the region. Crimes against Jewish individuals, in particular, have doubled.

Mark Levine, chair of the city council health committee, commented on the anti-Semitism in relation to the measles outbreak.

“We’re caught between the anti-vaxxers on one side, and the antisemites on the other. We’ve seen a really reprehensible level of rejection directed at Hassidic New Yorkers.”