I have to admit, the statement’s headline surprised me. Agudath Israel is no stranger to calling out those who claim to speak in the name of Judaism. However, it is not often that we feel compelled to publicly rebuke and disassociate ourselves from statements made by Orthodox rabbis. Yet, earlier this week, in response to comments made at an anti-vaccination gathering, Agudah released a statement that the speaker in question’s “assertions are nonsense…and it is unfortunate that he was allowed to share his imaginings with others (see here).”
Countless rabbinical figures and leaders, including leading rabbis in the Agudath Israel movement and doctors serving these communities, have repeatedly encouraged vaccination in the strongest possible terms. This was highlighted by multiple media outlets this week. The JTA covered the free vaccine clinic coordinated by Agudath Israel and other organizations (picture above). Avrohom Weinstock appeared on WCNY radio and The Jewish Forward published an op-Ed by my colleague Rabbi Avi Shafran outlining reasons why the media blaming our community for the measles outbreak is misguided. Lastly, our board member Chaskel Bennett was quoted in a story in the Guardian about the rise of anti-Semitism and its connection to the measles outbreak.
Anti-Semitic attacks continue to rise across the country including two suspicious fires at Chabad Houses in Massachusetts this week being investigated for possible arson. Thankfully, senators in New Jersey have introduced a bill to make security more accessible and affordable for nonpublic schools and houses of worship. On the federal level, today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced the Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act (S. 1539) to authorize $75 million annually for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). $50 million will be available for nonprofits located within high-risk urban areas, and the remaining $25 million will be available for organizations that fall outside of those areas. Under the legislation, funding may be used for target-hardening activities, training for personnel, and any other appropriate activity, as defined by the FEMA Administrator. Please ask your senator to support this important bill.
In late breaking news, H. R. 5 the Equality Act passed the US House of Representatives. Agudath Israel opposed the measure for the reasons outlined by a memo (click on image above) authored by Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s vice president for government affairs and Washington Director.
Lastly, see here for a budget update from our Ohio director, Rabbi Yitz Frank.