The Measles Outbreak in NY – Allowing Teens to Get Vaccinated on Their Own

Facing Measles Outbreak, N.Y. Lawmakers Want to Let Teenagers Get Vaccines on Their Own

ALBANY — After a measles outbreak in Brooklyn and Rockland County and amid growing concerns about the anti-vaccine movement, a pair of state legislators are proposing allowing minors to receive vaccinations without permission from their parents.

The bill would allow any child 14 years or older to be vaccinated and given booster shots for a range of diseases including mumps, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, influenza, hepatitis B and measles, which seemed to be the primary reason for alarm after the recent outbreaks.

“We are on the verge of a public health crisis,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, a Democrat from Albany, citing lower-than-recommended inoculation rates in some communities, spurred by unconfirmed suspicions about vaccines causing autism. “We’ve become complacent over the last couple of decades.”

[Your questions on measles and its vaccine, answered.]

That sentiment was amplified recently by the World Health Organization, which listed “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the Top 10 global threats. In Rockland County, officials are reporting 145 confirmed cases of measles, with the vast majority of those afflicted aged 18 and under. Of those, four out of five have received no vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella.

City health officials have also reported more than 100 cases of measles in Brooklyn, and a single case in Queens as well. As in Rockland County, most of those cases involved members of the Orthodox Jewish communities where vaccination rates typically lag well behind the norm.

A measles outbreak occurred at Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov in Brooklyn, New York after an unvaccinated child went to school.CreditDemetrius Freeman for The New York Times

[One Student Was Not Vaccinated Against Measles. 21 Others Got Sick.]

If passed and signed into law, the bill would make New York part of a group of states — ranging from liberal Oregon to conservative South Carolina — that allow minors to ask for vaccinations without parental approval, though some states also require minors to be evaluated to determine if they are mature enough to make such a decision. The New York bill would not require such an evaluation.


To read the article in its entirety in the New York Times click here.

Worst Measles Outbreak in Decades, Rockland County, New York, Hardest Hit

New York Confronts Its Worst Measles Outbreak in Decades

Borough Park, Brooklyn, has seen 35 cases of measles in an outbreak affecting more than 200 people in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey.CreditCreditBryan Thomas for The New York Times

Through the fall, traveler after traveler arrived in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of New York from areas of Israel and Europe where measles was spreading. They then spent time in homes, schools and shops in communities where too many people were unvaccinated.

Within months, New York State was facing its most severe outbreak of the disease in decades, with 182 cases confirmed by Thursday, almost exclusively among ultra-Orthodox Jews. Health officials in New Jersey have reported 33 measles cases, mostly in Ocean County, driven by similar conditions.

In 2018, New York and New Jersey accounted for more than half the measles cases in the country.

Alarmed, health officials began a systematic effort to bring up vaccination rates and halt the disease’s spread.

But while there has been progress, the outbreak is not yet over. Health officials said part of the problem has been resistance among some people in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to fully cooperate with health workers, get vaccinations and promptly report infections

“Sometimes they hang up and they don’t want to open the door,” said Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, the health commissioner of Rockland County, northwest of New York City, where the worst of the outbreak has been, with 116 confirmed cases. “It’s hard to break an outbreak if you are not getting cooperation.”

Dr. Ruppert said that health officials discovered that some religious schools, or yeshivas, in ultra-Orthodox communities in Rockland County had vaccination rates as low as 60 percent, far below the state average of 92.5 percent. Audits found that some schools were overreporting vaccination rates, she added.

Delayed vaccination also helped fuel the outbreak in the Orthodox communities of Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn, which had reported 58 cases as of Thursday, said Dr. Jane R. Zucker, head of the city health department’s Bureau of Immunization.

There have been no deaths in the outbreak, but there have been a few serious cases in young children that required hospitalization.

Measles is one of the most contagious infections and can live for up to two hours in the airspace where an infected person breathed, coughed or sneezed. It usually affects children, and symptoms include high fever and a rash of red spots all over the body, as well as a cough and runny nose. Some 90 percent of unvaccinated people exposed in proximity to an infected person will get it.

But the vaccine, when given in two doses — typically around age 1 and age 5 — is about 97 percent effective.

Health officials and sociologists say the reasons for low vaccination rates among the ultra-Orthodox are complex.

In part they are tied to the wider anti-vaccination movement globally, including concerns that the measles vaccine, which also protects against mumps and rubella, causes autism or other diseases. The idea has been widely debunked but persists in some circles.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, founder of Darchei Noam yeshiva in Monsey in Rockland County, said that some parents considering admission to his school agonized over giving their children vaccines because they had heard they were dangerous. His yeshiva insisted on them, he said, though he knew of others that did not.

“Good people, great parents were terrified,” he said. “They felt that I was asking to give their children something that would harm them.”

Alexandra Khorover, general counsel for Refuah Health Center, one of the largest health providers in the Rockland community of Spring Valley, said her health workers had encountered “a small pocket of people who are anti-vaccine who have been peddling this information, fostering confusion and fear.”

Part of the reluctance to vaccinate or allow a government health worker to enter the home, though, is cultural.

Samuel Heilman, a Queens College sociology professor who studies the ultra-Orthodox, said that there is a “fear of interference from the outside” rooted in the community’s origins in pre-World War II Europe. More recently, the ultra-Orthodox have fought back against other health department efforts, such as New York City’s efforts to limit a controversial circumcision practice, metzitzah b’peh, because of warnings from health officials that it causes herpes in infants.

“They have accepted the idea that they live by different rules than others in the outside community,” Mr. Heilman said.

While this insularity allowed the measles to spread, it has also had a protective effect on wider public health, at least so far. In part because ultra-Orthodox Jews tend to attend their own religious schools and patronize their own shops and restaurants, the disease has remained in Orthodox circles, save for several infections among non-Jewish workers linked to their communities, health officials said.

The outbreak in New York and New Jersey can be traced to the rise of measles in Israel, where some 2,700 cases and two deaths were reported in 2018, centered in Jerusalem.

In Europe, which was the source of at least some of the Brooklyn infections, some 65,000 cases were reported in the year ending October 2018, with high concentrations in Balkan countries and Ukraine.

A flier distributed in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities by the New York City Health Department.CreditNew York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
A flier distributed in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities by the New York City Health Department.CreditNew York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

As measles spread in New York, public health officials swung into action. Some 40,000 fliers were printed in English, Yiddish, Spanish and other languages warning of the Israeli outbreak and calling for people to be vaccinated. Health officials met with rabbis and pediatricians, who sounded the alarm to their congregations and patients.

“We are telling people the health department is looking out for your health,” said Rabbi David Niederman, a community leader and executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. “They are the experts and you should take the vaccinations.

In Rockland County, which includes the large ultra-Orthodox community of New Square, the authorities put 59 schools under “exclusion orders,” forbidding unvaccinated children to attend even if they had a valid religious or medical exemption to the vaccine. The orders are lifted when a school’s vaccination rate reaches 95 percent, which state authorities consider protective of public health. Eighteen schools have had the orders lifted, officials said.

In Brooklyn, some children have been out of school for months because of similar exclusion orders by health officials, said Rabbi David Zwiebel, the executive director of Agudath Israel, an ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization. Tensions are high, with some parents still refusing to vaccinate because of health fears, and others relenting.

“There has been some harsh language exchanged on both sides,” Rabbi Zwiebel said.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

Seabrook – Fraud – Corruption – Platinum Funds – Valentin and Vindication



907481babec91d43b20702262efcda25It might be about time for William Valentin to have his day in Court. 

We have reported on Valentin and his attempts at proving Seabrook’s improprieties with respect to irresponsible investments in Platinum and the potential that Seabrook was earning some form of compensation for for these investments. We had little doubt that Valentin was correct in his conclusions, despite having his case tossed out of court. It is our hope that he will finally be vindicated. We have posted an article below with some information on the Valentin case.  

LostMessiah, June 8, 2016


Chief of New York Jail Officers’ Union Is Arrested on Fraud Charges

To read the entire article click here.

The 17-page complaint, sworn out by F.B.I. Special Agent Blaire Toleman, charges both men with one count of honest services fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.

Lawyers for the two men could not be immediately reached for comment; a spokesman for Mr. Seabrook said the union president had no immediate comment. 

The relationship between the mayor and Mr. Seabrook has been close in the past. At a 2014 fund-raiser for a union charity, Mr. de Blasio referred to Mr. Seabrook as a “friend” and a “great leader.” But Mr. Seabrook has also been one of the fiercest critics of the mayor’s reform efforts at Rikers Island.

The accusations do not involve Mr. de Blasio or any of the possible improprieties that are under scrutiny in more than half a dozen inquiriesswirling around the mayor and his aides. However, the role in the case of Mr. Rechnitz, a donor who has given more than $150,000 to causes supported by the mayor, is notable. He served as an intermediary, introducing Mr. Seabrook to Mr. Huberfeld to facilitate the union’s investment in Platinum Partners.

Mr. Huberfeld, through Mr. Rechnitz, paid an initial kickback to Mr. Seabrook of $60,000, the complaint said, noting that “ultimately Huberfeld agreed to pay Seabrook bribes that were expected to total hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The complaint does not name Mr. Rechnitz, referring to him instead as cooperating witness No. 1. It says that the information he has provided has been “reliable and corroborated by independent evidence.”

A lawyer for Mr. Rechnitz, Alan Levine, declined to comment.

The government’s interest in Mr. Seabrook and his relationship with Platinum Partners dates back roughly two years and was reported by The New York Times last June.

William Valentin, a correction officer who was forced off the executive board when he mounted a challenge for the union presidency, alleged that Mr. Seabrook had invested millions of dollars in the hedge fund without consulting the board.

Mr. Seabrook acknowledged the investment in an affidavit for a lawsuit, but declined to identify the fund and gave contradictory statements about how much the union earned from it. At one point, he said the return was $475,000 in three months; but the union’s audited financial statements listed a $47,529 return.

Mr. Huberfeld was convicted of fraud in 1993 for arranging for another party to take a brokerage licensing exam under his name. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to two years of probation. In a separate case, in 1998, Mr. Huberfeld and a partner paid $4.6 million to settle a civil action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission that alleged bank fraud.

Mr. Rechnitz’s involvement was reported in April by The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Seabrook, who favors finely tailored suits and cigars and is chauffeured around the city in black S.U.V.s, has come to exert extraordinary control over the Correction Department.

Over the years, Mr. Seabrook has been sued by current and former union employees, who have leveled allegations ranging from corruption to sexual harassment. He has withstood them all.

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From the New York Times on FailedMessiah

A Muckraking Blogger Focuses on Jews

On Religion



Decades ago on a characteristically arctic day here, a boy named Scott Rosenberg waited with his neighborhood pals as a certain Chevy Impala glided into view. It contained the city’s archbishop, and the boys, all of them Roman Catholic except for Scott, pelted the car with snowballs.

The archbishop braked and emerged to chastise his assailants. To Scott, whom he correctly identified as Jewish, the prelate said simply, “You call your rabbi.”

Consider this a parable or a metaphor or just a piquant coincidence. Consider it revealing that Shmarya Rosenberg, as Scott is now known, recalled the incident in a recent interview as one of his most enduring memories. Because, lo, these years later, Mr. Rosenberg has made his name and earned equal measures of admiration and opprobrium for lobbing the digital version of snowballs at a great many rabbis.

On Religion

Blogging on the site, Mr. Rosenberg, 51, has transmuted a combination of muckraking reporting and personal grudge into a must-read digest of the actual and alleged misdeeds of the ultra-Orthodox world. He has broken news about sexual misconduct, smear campaigns and dubious business practices conducted by or on behalf of stringently religious Jews.

Shmarya Rosenberg working at his apartment. Credit Ben Garvin for The New York Times
Operating thousands of miles from the centers of ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Brooklyn and Jerusalem, waking at 3:30 a.m. and working a dozen hours at a stretch in an apartment cluttered with books, Mr. Rosenberg has had his scoops cited by The Wall Street Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, PR Week and Gawker. The national Jewish newspaper The Forward listed him among the 50 most influential American Jews, and the hip, cheeky magazine Heeb put him in its top 100.

And somewhat regularly, Mr. Rosenberg’s in-box brims with missives like this recent one: “what happened to you when you were young that you are so anti ‘haredi’ were you abused or molested, you are as false and krum as they come, you are not helping anybody with your negative bent. You wanna bring out sad occurrences in the community, im not sure that its your business to do that, there is such a thing called tznius. And to belittle gedolim whole sale just proves that you are insane.”

If you need a Hebrew and Yiddish glossary to fully fathom the diss — “krum” means “crooked,” “haredi” means “fervently Orthodox,” “tznius” is “modesty” and the “gedolim” are the great rabbis — then you have some sense of the almost claustrophobically inward community that Mr. Rosenberg chronicles.

It is also, not coincidentally to his fervor, the one he used to inhabit. The son of Conservative Jewish parents who ran a beauty supply company, Mr. Rosenberg grew attracted in his late teens to the Chabad movement of the Lubavitch Hasidim for what he described as “the perfect combination of social service and religious mystery.”

Mr. Rosenberg found his compelling cause in the plight of Ethiopian Jews seeking to be allowed to immigrate to Israel. His failure to enlist Chabad’s support for those efforts in the mid-1980s began a sustained process of estrangement. Still, he continued to worship with a Chabad congregation, study under Chabad rabbis and work in the kosher-meat industry in the Twin Cities.
Only in 2004 did Mr. Rosenberg take the decisive step of learning how to set up a blog. He titled it FailedMessiah — a swipe at what he saw as the hypocrisy of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who had died in 1994, and what he perceived as a messianic strain within the Hasidic sect. The first item Mr. Rosenberg posted was a 1984 letter from the rebbe saying there were more pressing needs in the Jewish community than the Ethiopians.

Shmarya Rosenberg, a lapsed member of the Chabad movement of the Lubavitch Hasidim, writes his muckraking blog,, from his book-cluttered apartment in St. Paul. Credit Ben Garvin for The New York Times

Thus provoked, the Lubavitchers excommunicated Mr. Rosenberg. (The group denies that it has such a formal procedure.)

“I thought I didn’t have any future,” Mr. Rosenberg recalled. “I was in shock for a long time. I didn’t have any friends now. I had no business. I had no synagogue. I was going to be a rabbi. Now that was all gone, too.”

Yet, journalistically speaking, Mr. Rosenberg was also liberated. And his indignation with Chabad coincided with a big story later in 2004, when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released video of the slaughtering practices inside Agriprocessors, a vast kosher-meat plant in Iowa owned and operated by a Lubavitcher family, the Rubashkins.

Mr. Rosenberg posted a link to the video and went on both to report his own investigative pieces and to spread those of other journalists, particularly Nathaniel Popper of The Forward. When a public-relations company, 5WPR, fabricated online postings by a rabbi who was pushing for ethical reform in kosher foods, it was Mr. Rosenberg who uncovered the “sock puppet” scam.

A recent post, replete with supporting photographs and documents, showed how even after Agriprocessors had been disgraced and its chief executive convicted of financial crimes, members of the Rubashkin family continued to sell meat through a Web site.

In his righteous wrath, though, Mr. Rosenberg has also overstepped. He disparaged the journalistic integrity of Sue Fishkoff, the author of an acclaimed book about the Chabad movement, by referring to her as a “kadesha” — a term from Genesis that means a temple prostitute. After she objected, he posted an apology.

Chabad leaders declined to speak on the record about Mr. Rosenberg, but in general, they say that he has exaggerated the degree of messianism in the movement and that he is driven to settle scores. But they acknowledge that he has gotten some embarrassing things right.

“Shmarya often reminds me of journalism in the old days — when editors would sometimes go at one another physically in the street,” Jonathan D. Sarna, a historian of American Jewry at Brandeis University with expertise in Jewish journalism, wrote in an e-mail message. “I know that he is fiercely hated in some Orthodox circles, but he has had many a scoop, and is certainly THE destination for those who want dirt about Orthodoxy exposed to the world.”