Kate Anderson on March 29, 2023
The New York Health Department abruptly ended a vaccination program Tuesday aimed at Jewish communities after it sparked complaints of antisemitism, according to Newsday.
State officials had expressed concerns over the uptick in polio cases in the Jewish state over the past year, and issued a travel advisory for Jews traveling to Israel for the upcoming holiday of Passover, according to Times of Israel. As a result, the department launched an initiative to encourage Jews traveling to Israel to get the polio vaccine by sending a truck to Jewish neighborhoods with the phrase “Polio is spreading in Israel” and “Get immunized now,” according to Newsday.
The effort was not well received by the Jewish community in Long Island, who argued that the idea that Jews were spreading disease was an old antisemitic stereotype, prompting state officials to remove the truck. Republican state Assemblyman Ari Brown told the New York Post that he was “not surprised” by the “antisemitic trope.”
“The Nazis justified the walling off of the ghettos as a preventive measure against the spread of typhus, while some 300 Jewish communities were destroyed in the mass hysteria associated with the plague,” Brown told the Post. “Now with a New York State Department of Health truck riding around Jewish neighborhoods with the rhetoric of, ‘Polio is spreading in Israel, Get Immunized Now’ … It’s the same ‘Jews spread disease’ libel,” Brown said.
Sam Miller, the associate commissioner of external affairs for the state Department of Health, said in a prepared statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation that the truck was part of a “public awareness campaign” but in response to the feedback it was removed and emphasized that the department “strongly condemn[s] antisemitism.”
“Following Israel’s recent announcement of four new cases of polio, including a paralyzed child, the Department of Health issued a press release urging people who travel to Israel and other countries with circulating poliovirus to get fully immunized against polio,” Miller said.
“With Passover near and travel to Israel expected to increase, the Department also launched a public awareness campaign this month reminding New Yorkers planning travel to Israel to protect themselves and their families by getting immunized,” he added. “After hearing feedback that mobile van ads intended to reach New Yorkers in their communities could be interpreted as blaming the communities themselves for the spread of polio, the Department immediately pulled those ads.”
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