A measles outbreak in a New York suburb has sickened scores of people and stoked long-smoldering tensions between the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and the secular world at large.
SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. — Erica Wingate was working at a clothing store in town this week when a male customer, with the black hat and sidelocks typically worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews, started coughing.
Another shopper standing next to him suddenly dropped the item she had been holding and clutched her child. “She was buying something, and she just threw it down,” Ms. Wingate recalled. “She said, ‘Let’s go, let’s go! Jews don’t have shots!’”
A measles outbreak in this suburban New York county has sickened scores of people and alarmed public health experts who fear it may be a harbinger of the growing influence of the anti-vaccine movement. But it has also intensified long-smoldering tensions between the rapidly expanding and insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and secular society.
The authorities here in Rockland County have traced the spread of measles to ultra-Orthodox families whose children have not been vaccinated.
And so some residents say they now wipe public bus seats and cross the street when they see ultra-Orthodox Jews. Hasidic leaders said they feared not only a rise in anti-Semitism but an invasion of their cloistered community by the authorities under the guise of public health.
On Tuesday, county officials took the extraordinary step of announcing a state of emergency, barring unvaccinated children under 18 from public places, including restaurants, shopping centers, houses of worship and schools.
“They did it to themselves,” Ms. Wingate said, referring to the Hasidic people who have refused to vaccinate. “But I feel terrible for everyone.”