At least one person at Heights Jewish Center Synagogue left the synagogue on Shabbat April 13 based on the Orthodox synagogue’s new vaccination policy, its president told the Cleveland Jewish News.
"I had to explain to one person our policy of following CDC guidlines. She replied that the CDC is wrong, but I will leave," Robert Altshuler, president of the University Heights synagogue wrote in an email. He said the conversation took place the evening of April 13 in the children's play area of the synagogue.
“It is not our intention to turn anybody away,” Altshuler said. “We want to be open to anyone who wants to worship here, but we have to follow guidelines that have gone a long way to eradicate disease in the United States.”
Heights Jewish Center announced its policy, requiring vaccination against measles to all who attend on April 9.
In response to the outbreak of measles in Orthodox communities, Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood announced a change to its vaccination policy. The new policy will require students to receive at least one dose of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and those over the age of 5 to be vaccinated with two doses.
“Any student who is not vaccinated according to this schedule by the time we return from Pesach break (April 29) will not be allowed in school until the appropriate level of vaccination is complete,” read the letter signed by Rabbi Avery Joel, head of school, which was sent by email to parents on April 12.
Several Orthodox synagogues have announced policies that unvaccinated people will not be allowed to attend.
Young Israel of Greater Cleveland in Beachwood and Waxman Chabad Center adopted a similar policy as has Green Road Synagogue, all in Beachwood, and Congregation Zichron Chaim of University Heights.
“They’re counting on the integrity of the congregants to do what’s right,” said Vivian Garfunkel, a congregant of Congregation Zichron Chaim who consulted with the assistant rabbi. “There was no measles police.”
In response to the outbreak of measles in Orthodox communities, the MinuteClinic at CVS at 14440 Cedar Road in University Heights offered a vaccination clinic on April 18.
Between Jan. 1 and April 11, the CDC reported 555 cases of measles in the United States, and the number continues to rise.
On April 16, Rockland County, N.Y., public health officials barred unvaccinated people from public gathering places.
The New York City Health Department website lists 329 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens, mostly in Orthodox communities. The outbreak’s source was an unvaccinated child who traveled to Israel, according to the website.
The health department closed a Brooklyn yeshiva preschool for a measles vaccination violation.
Dr. Michael Rabovsky, chairman of family medicine at Cleveland Clinic, suggested anyone traveling to areas where there have been measles outbreaks, including Orthodox neighborhoods in New York City, to be vaccinated.
“If you were going to be traveling to New York and to that Orthodox community for Passover, one, it might make sense to reconsider travel, frankly; two, if that couldn’t be done, to get a second vaccine,” he said.
Measles can be fatal. It is contagious for four days prior to the development of its rash, Rabovsky said.
“If there’s fear of side effects, I think we need to do education to the people who are afraid of the vaccine,” he said. “A lot of untruths cause a lot of fear. And I think there are serious consequences to that.”