Photo Credit: CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice via Wikimedia
This child shows a classic day-4 rash with measles.

The measles outbreak that struck Israel over the past couple of months has now expanded into the Orthodox Jewish community in New York’s metropolitan area as well, and is spreading rapidly.

Tragically, an unvaccinated 18-month-old baby passed away this past Thursday night in Jerusalem from the disease. Other members of the baby’s family were also confirmed to have been infected with measles as well.


Officials with the NYC Health Department are calling on parents to vaccinate their children if they have not already done so: 17 children have been diagnosed with measles in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park, 11 of them this past Friday alone.

Three infections were acquired during a visit to Israel, including the initial case that started the New York City outbreak, Health Department officials said in a release to media. “There has also been transmission in schools with children who are unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated,” said the statement, which included endorsements from Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn and Rabbi Avi Greenstein, executive director of the Borough Park Jewish Community Council.

“It says in the Torah, ‘V’nishmartem Meod L’nafshoseichem,’ that a person must guard their health,” Niederman said in the release. “It is abundantly clear on the necessity for parents to ensure that their children are vaccinated, especially from measles.”

In Lakewood, New Jersey, where at least four cases of measles were confirmed this past Friday, some synagogues have gone as far as sending letters to their congregants warning them not to bring anyone – children or adults — into the building who has not been vaccinated against the virus. Several schools there have done the same, informing parents that children who are not vaccinated will not be allowed into the school building.

Likewise, north of New York City, in Rockland County, two children were hospitalized — one of them in the intensive care unit — due to the measles outbreak. A total of 40 cases have been reported, according to the Health Department.

In Monsey, the Viznitz Girls School has announced that any child who has not been vaccinated cannot return to school for 21 days: no “religious exemption” is acceptable, according to a report published by The Yeshiva World News site.

In addition, schools in the village of New Square have also been ordered to keep unvaccinated or “under vaccinated” children home from school for a 21-day period following the last confirmed case of measles in the county.

One is considered to be immune if: they were born before 1957, received two doses of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella), have had a case of measles confirmed by a health professional or had a lab test confirming immunity.

If you believe you have been exposed to the illness, contact your health provider.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.