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Measles Outbreak Grows In Orthodox Communities As Leaders Urge Vaccination

As a measles outbreak spreads throughout Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey, some of the most influential institutions in the Jewish world are urging community members to vaccinate their children if they have not already done so.

The majority-Jewish town of Lakewood, New Jersey has 11 confirmed cases, Yeshiva World News reported Wednesday. It added that a previously-tracked outbreak in New York’s Rockland County, home to several ultra-Orthodox enclaves, has spread to 68 cases, making it the largest measles outbreak in New York state in decades.

Beth Medresh Govoha in Lakewood, one of the largest yeshivas in the world, is urging members to get vaccinated against the measles, after an infected person entered one of its buildings on Nov. 6.

The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America “strongly urge all parents to vaccinate their healthy children on the timetable recommended by their pediatrician,” the groups said in a joint statement.

Several other leading Haredi rabbis have helped lead vaccination campaigns, while some yeshivas in New York and Chicago announced that they will no longer accept students who have not been immunized.

Lakewood has at least 11 confirmed cases of measles, but The Yeshiva World reports that the number might be higher. The publication also found that one family has six members who show symptoms, but the mother won’t visit a doctor, concerned that he or she will be “injecting poison into her children.”

According to the Rockland/Westchester Journal News, Rockland County medical officials say the outbreak there was started by people who returned from trips to Israel, where there is a large outbreak. Health authorities in the United States and Israel have said that Orthodox Jewish communities often have lower rates of vaccination than the general public.

Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at fisher@forward.com, or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher

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