Dec 20, 2009

Religious Reasons?

There is a lot of talk of a mumps outbreak in New York among some Hassidic communities. Some infected were among those already vaccinated, as there is a certain percentage of people who will get it anyway despite being vaccinated, but it originated from groups of people who refused to vaccinate their children.

I can understand people refusing vaccinations because they say they don't trust the reports, or they don't trust the doctors. I can understand people saying they are into homeopathy or alternative medicine and don't believe in the vaccinations. I can understand people saying they don't believe in giving a live vaccine as it might cause problems. i can understand people saying they are worried about the side effects even if they are a rare occurrence.

There can be lots of reasons why someone might be against [certain?] vaccinations. But the reason given, according to the original article in the NY Times, and in all the follow-up articles on YWN and VIN and others, is that they refused the vaccinations for "religious reasons".

I don't understand what religious reasons there can possibly be for refusing a vaccination. Tell me a lack of trust in doctors or the medical aspects and i can accept it. But "religious reasons"? What religious reasons can there be for refusing a vaccination?


  1. YWN probably just quoted NY Times.

    NY Times probably misreported, I would take what they say with a grain of salt.

    There is a lot of awareness in the Chassidic community of the possible site effects of certain vaccinations, incl. autism. NY Times probably got the reason wrong ("its only about those Orthodox Jews after all")

  2. it was a quote from a response of somebody asked why they did not vaccinate. Unless they made up the quote, which I guess is possible...

  3. Easy. Same reason many charedim/chassidim don't believe in life insurance: Hashem yishmor. What, you don't have enough bitachon that Hashem will protect you from disease/your family form poverty if you die?

    Sounds like a religious reason to me.

  4. Those Were the Days..December 20, 2009 2:10 PM


    This is an off post topic but not an "off title". "Religious reasons" is an appropriate title to a question I have had.

    Perhaps you caould make a separate post to discuss the following.

    I am a product of the Charedi Yeshiva (Lakewood) world. I have seen many changes in my own life that are based on "religious reasons".

    When i was in yeshiva while there were some who wore a jacket/ hat most of the time the majority of talmidim felt fine going in shirt sleeves and hatless (except to daven, on Shabbos or at a simcha).
    Today if one goes around "hatless/jacketless" there are many eyebrows raised.

    In my day wonderful biographies came out about Rav Moshe and Rav Yaakov that even included pictures with..women. Today a book or magazine that even has a cartoon drawing of a female will be cast into the category of "kfira".

    In those days tzedaka was tzedaka and chesed was chesed. Today you must hook up with one of the organziations and their segula of the week in order to properly fulfill the mitzva of tzedaka.

    In my day while people were very careful about kashrus they weren't obsessed with forbidding every type of hashgocha. I'm certain that Rav Auerbach and Rav Machpud would have been acceptable in the yeshiva kitchen.

    But the biggest question of all...the talmidim from my day (present company excluded) are now great rabbonim, mechanchim,roshei yeshiva, and ehrliche baalabatim.
    Even though they grew up with treif books, newspapers,shchita, etc.

    And there was much less scandal in the frum world. Fewer "off the derech kids". And much more ahavas Yisrael and respect.

    Am I missing something here?

    Your thoughts, please

  5. Abbi - Bitachon? maybe that is behind it. Not sure. bitachon doesnt mean to stay in bed all day and expect everything to be done for you. but maybe.

    those - interesting topic you suggest. we have all considered it, broken down in its various parts. Some of us have kept up the ways f the old days better than others, on some things more than on other things. but everything you mention is right on the money and might be due or some analysis.

    feel free to email offline to further discuss this. Maybe you want to consider writing a guest post....

  6. Yes, one would think that bitachon doesn't mean a man would spend his entire life in kollel and expect that the world will support his family, marry off his kids and pay for everything to school lunch to medical care. But, as my father's high school rebbe used to say, it happens every day someone's mechallel shabbos.

  7. I heard a shiur this morning, where the guy quoted a rav from Breuers who said that bitachon doesn't mean having faith that things will work out; rather it means that having faith that whatever happens is mi-shamayim and for the best.

    The torah says (forgot the context) "רפוא ירפא", which is understood to be persmission to practice medicine. This seems to cast aside the idea of refusing medication based on "religious reasons", unless, (a) we're talking about medication which may have a kashrut or other distinct halachik problem with it, or (b) we're talking about a religion other than Judaism.

  8. yoni - you still dont explain what those religious reasons might be. Unless you suggest they are like what Abbi said - simply bitachon that the vaccination is not necessary but you will be protected without it.

    Abbi - I like that quote from your fathers rebbi/

  9. There is a lot of awareness in the Chassidic community of the possible site effects of certain vaccinations, incl. autism.

    I'm surprised anyone would refer to this community as "aware". The autism/vaccine link was debunked years ago. But "awareness" of junk science takes on a life of its own.

  10. tesyaa wrote: The autism/vaccine link was debunked years ago.

    Tripe!!! It is extremely difficult to prove or disprove this either way - even the "skeptics" admit that. However more and more evidence of the link between vaccinations with mercury based preservatives and autism continues to mount.

    Those of us with autistic children and stories of our own, who follow the news in that area, would be more aware of that.

  11. regardless, the concern of autism is a valid medical concern. If you believe they are linked, so it is valid to refrain, as a medical decision. I still dont see how that connects to a religious reason.

    And about autism, I dont know why you think hassidim would be more aware than anyone else about the linkage. Does autism happen more in the hassidic community than elsewhere?

  12. This is my impression.

    Based on my experience, in Jerusalem, the amount of autistic institutions (for the general public) run by Chareidim and Chassidim are way out of proportion.

    The Chareidi run autistic support groups are also far more serious, committed and better attended.

  13. Rafi, if there is a genetic component to autism, which I believe there is, the chasidim may suffer more from autism because of their insular inbreeding practices tied to shidduch and yichus reasons.

  14. perhaps it has more to do with inbreeding than vaccinations? hassidim are more common to marry within the family...

    it doesnt make sense that hassidim would objectively have higher percentages of autism than the general population just because of vaccinations....everyone gets vaccinations, so why should they be different?

    I might even say the opposite - if they are refusing vaccinations, and still having higher percentages of autism, perhaps they should be taking the vaccines and get the numbers down.

  15. tesyaa - I wrote that at the same time as you. thanks

  16. I didn't say that they have a higher percentage than the general population.

    I don't know weather they do or do not! I just said that there is more help and support.

    If they do have a higher percentage, it is probably more because they have more children.

    When we got the "diagnosis" of our oldest son, the chiloni psychologist told us that the Chareidim have less hang-ups about special need children, and offer excellent help!

    Maybe this is because they have less hang-ups about career and university?

  17. Yehudi Yerushalmi is misinformed.

    There is NO link between vaccines and autism.

    Millions of dollars has been spent trying to confirm one. All for naught. There is now an incredible amount of evidence that that there is NO association between vaccines and autism. We have to stop spending money looking for these nonexistent links because we need it to study real causes of disease.

    Furthermore, the investigators who wrote the first paper that claimed to see a link are under investigation for scientific misconduct for that very study. In other words, the very study that is the entire basis for all the vaccine/autism scare -- a tiny observational study of only twelve children with no comparison group -- may have been faked!

    Finally, the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine used in the US has NEVER used thimerol as a preservative.

    Mumps is a nasty illness. I had it when I was five years old, before the vaccine was available. While it is almost never fatal, one of the known side effects is sterility in men. It would be tragic if one of the results of the "religious reasons" for avoiding the MMR vaccine is that people will be unable to have children.

  18. Bitachon as a justification for refusing medical care is not something that is justified for Jews. To the contrary, we tend to be adamant about insisting on aggressive treatment for terminal conditions even when they have essentially no chance of success! Whoever claimed that there are religious reasons for avoiding vaccines is distorting Judaism.

  19. Rafi,

    I've spoken with a number of people who have claimed religious exemption. In private, every single one has admitted that it was a lie, just something they wrote on paper to get their child into school without getting the vaccine(s).

  20. Way I'm using your comment as a lead-in to mine....

    I think among some charedi and/or chassidic communities, there is a strong tendency to disregard any rules not handed down as halacha. Traffic violations, ignoring tax procedures, even disregarding airplane seat assignments.

    And within the medical field look at what happens - there are these organizations of charedi askanim who will advise you regarding which doctor or facility to use. Ask any EMT or other medical professional who has worked in emergency conditions, whether they have encountered a charedi who has *delayed*urgent*treatment* while getting an answer from these organizations, or because these organizations advised them to wait 6+ hours for the ideal professional to come on duty.

    So it's no wonder they don't think an immunization is important. Ironically, the success of the immunizations has deceived many into believing we don't really need them.

  21. another question - why do the hassidim trust those promoting alternative medicine more than trusting the docotrs and those promoting scientific medicine?
    what makes these non-halachic people any more trustworthy than these other non-halachic people?

  22. maybe it seems like the olden days of the gemara when medicine was practiced with herbs and all kinds of "natural" means

  23. Its all a sham: The moment one of the science deniers needs a liver transplant or stem cell treatment, they throw religion and homeopathy out the window and try to get an appointment at the Mayo.

    Touching on Shira's point: they can get away with it because they reply on my kids having been vaccinated. So if twenty kids are in a class and 19 have been vaccinated, the parents of the 20th say to themselves, "why do I need to do it, everyones's vaccination removes the danger."

    And touching on a blog I once wrote: people will cut off a piece of their child's sexual organ because a book says that an invisible entity told them to, but won't vaccinate their children despite all respected best medical science we have today says to vaccinate.

  24. Anonymous December 20, 2009 10:22 PM,

    We have been forbidden from relying on Talmudic medical advice since the time of the Gaonim.

  25. From personal experience says:
    The vaccine for chickenpox lays dormant in your system and later on, one can get Shingles. So how do we know that other vaccines don't have the same latency factor? The swine flu vaccine has produced many awful side effects in otherwise healthy children (several in Lakewood: Yated commenter) in our community and in others in other communities. Plus the vaccine varies from country to country based on "who knows what regs from the WHO" that ultimately could contain "who knows what" (i.e. substances toward pop. control).

    I've always thought that the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors may have hidden genetic problems, simply because no one knows what those feigns did to our people.

  26. Neshama: the reason we "know" is based on long term evidence. the other vaccines aren't showing those signs.

    Yehuda: Charlie is 100% correct. I heard the interview with the Doctor who originally "found" the link between autism and vaccines. Jenny Mccarthy took it and ran, creating a whole network. he has since been interviewed and recinded his findings. Conspiracy? I'm sure many say yes. But he also showed where his science was wrong.

    It boils down to basic pikuach nefesh of your kids and others. The vaccine is never 100%. If my vaccinated child is a carrier and your unvaccinated child comes in contact with a contagious disease, your kid is in sakanah. If my vaccinated kid isn't up to par with the strength of the vaccine, then your infected kid could kill mine. All reasons to do the most you can to protect.

    We are living lonbger now for a reason. our child mortality rates are down for a reason. One should never blindly trust anyone, let alone their doctors, but they should never make health decisions based on celebrity propoganda.

  27. The vaccine for chickenpox lays dormant in your system and later on, one can get Shingles. So how do we know that other vaccines don't have the same latency factor?

    Neshama, that's because Chicken Pox itself produces a dormant potential for Shingles!!! On the contrary, studies in the US show that exposure to the live c-pox vaccine reduces adult shingles by 50%

    The European community, however, recommends against the vaccine, suggesting that adult contact with children experiencing c-pox will refresh the adults' immunity and therefore reduce the chances of shingles actually coming out.

    But the understanding of shingles is that it isn't an actual flare-up of c-pox (or actually Herpes Zoster) but rather a dip in the person's immunity level - sudden (unrelated injury) or gradual (aging).

    And Shingles is unique to Chicken Pox - the other, more serious diseases, for which the WHO recommends an immunization, do not tie into a secondary disease.

  28. I think the term "religious reasons" has more to do with the state's checkboxes. And yes, it's a lie.

    We are selectively vaccinating and staggering our vaccination schedule. So no chicken pox, no flu (unless we had a child in a particular risk category - an asthmatic, or something along those line), no hep b - for now (we'll reassess that one as we get closer to the teen years, but hello? a 2 day old baby needing a vax for a sexually transmitted disease? get real). Bottom line, we don't need any special waiver to get our kids into school because we're basically covering the state-mandated vaccines. But at one point, we had a misunderstanding with one school about what we were/weren't doing, and the school director told us to simply go down to the health dept and get a waiver form to say we were not vaccinating due to religious reasons. When I told her it had nothing to do with religious reasons, she said to do it anyway because that's the only way the state will let you out of it. So likely that's what people are referring to.


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