Talking Ticks in the Hasidic Catskills

'Yesh Tickva' Aims to Raise Awareness About the Disease

Summer Idyll: Ticks abound in the picturesque Catskills.
Tiner Ralph, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Summer Idyll: Ticks abound in the picturesque Catskills.

By Danielle Schlanger

Published May 25, 2014, issue of May 30, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

“Often, if you find that you’ve seen a doctor and you still are ill with some kind of chronic condition, it’s worth looking again at Lyme disease, even if your tests don’t show it,” explained Daniel Cameron, an internist and epidemiologist in Mount Kisco, New York. Cameron has been treating Lyme disease since 1987 and has seen thousands of patients who have become sick from ticks.

Isaacson went to “at least 15 doctors” before a close friend recognized that her symptoms were similar to those of her sister, who suffers from Lyme disease. In the summer of 2003, Isaacson had visited her children in Sullivan County. Two weeks after returning home, she developed flulike symptoms and began having trouble breathing, gastrointestinal distress, and numbness and tingling in her extremities. She described feeling “extreme brain fog” and as though “she was solidified with cement.”

Rachel G., a 37-year-old mother of three from Boro Park, was sick for roughly 15 years before receiving her diagnosis of Lyme disease. (She asked that her last name be omitted for privacy reasons.) After the birth of her first child, she went to Monticello to recover and spend time with her mother. Upon returning to Brooklyn, Rachel G. began having crippling migraines, which persisted for years. She also experienced recurring urinary tract infections, bronchitis and inflammation of multiple joints.

“My life was literally put on hold,” she said. “It came to a point that the headaches were so severe, I used to get seizures from them.” She went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for her seizures, which by then were occurring almost daily. There, she was diagnosed with nonepileptic seizures. But Rachel G. wasn’t getting better.

“I was a 28-year-old, and I was taking more medication than an 80-year-old grandmother,” she said. Only when Rachel G. read an article in Binah, a weekly magazine for Jewish women, about a young community member afflicted with Lyme disease did she realize that this was likely the culprit. A New York City physician later diagnosed her with Lyme disease; she is now undergoing treatment.

The Catskills, which comprise Sullivan, Ulster, Delaware and Greene counties, is known as “tick central.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2007 and 2011 there were 256 reported cases of Lyme disease in Sullivan County. However, Cameron suspects that the vast majority of incidents are not reported, and so the number is likely 10 times this amount. There are no statistics on Lyme disease in the Hasidic community.

“It’s a region for which I would probably use the word hyper-endemic,” said Kenneth Liegner, a physician in private practice who treats Lyme disease. “The lower Hudson Valley is one of the biggest hotspots for Lyme in the country, if not the world.”

In Brooklyn, Yesh Tickva hopes to educate the Jewish community on how Lyme disease can pose a serious threat to one’s health.

Isaacson described last summer as “an epidemic” due to the mild winter, which allows ticks to arise from their dormant state earlier than usual. She recounted how she received phone calls daily from community members worried they may have contracted a tick-borne disease in the mountains.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.