As summer nears, many Hasidic communities in Brooklyn are beginning to prepare for holidays in New York’s Catskill Mountains, long the preferred destination for religious families looking for a reprieve from urban life.
Yet amid the rolling green hills and low-slung bungalows, live ticks — tiny creatures that have infected many vacationers with Lyme disease, including members of the religious Jewish community.
Several Hasidic women in Brooklyn suffering from Lyme disease have recently formed a support group called Yesh Tickva, a play on the Hebrew phrase for “There’s hope.” The women have met a handful of times to share medical and emotional resources.
They also plan to spread awareness about the disease, ensuring that Hasidic city dwellers understand the danger of tick-borne illness and how best to protect themselves. The group’s plans include placing advertisements in local papers warning about the disease and speaking with doctors, camp mothers and members of Hatzolah — the Hasidic volunteer ambulance service — about symptoms.
“Because I’m on the road to recovery, I felt a responsibility to give back to my people,” said Chumy Klughaupt, the founder of the group. “Who knows how many people are suffering, running from doctor to doctor. With this awareness, we can save their lives.”
“All it takes is one minute,” said Rachel Isaacson, a 54-year-old grandmother from Boro Park and a member of Yesh Tickva. “It doesn’t take weeks or a day. All you need is one nasty tick with a lot of diseases.”
Lyme disease is caused by bacterium carried by ticks, which is then transmitted to humans through a bite. Because of its varied symptoms, the infection can be difficult to diagnose. While some may develop a rash following exposure, the most common symptoms are severe fatigue, poor sleep, trouble with concentration, lightheadedness, irritability, headaches and joint pain. Left untreated, Lyme disease can affect the nervous system.