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Anti-vaccine protest planned for Orthodox health event in Brooklyn



(New York Jewish Week) — A conference for Orthodox medical professionals that aims to improve healthcare literacy in the community is drawing backlash from anti-vaccine activists, who are also planning a protest.  

The conference, set to take place at a hotel in the heavily Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, will cover a broad range of topics — including vaccination, community healthcare, long COVID and the return of infectious diseases such as polio. The conference, with an expected attendance of some 100 to 150 people, is approved as a continuing education course for medical professionals and is sponsored by multiple medical providers and community organizations. 

The gathering comes after years of low vaccination rates in the city’s haredi Orthodox community, driven in part by misinformation, a lack of resources and mistrust in a city government that some felt had targeted Orthodox Jews. Recent years have also seen a current of anti-vaccine activism by some haredi Jews, in partnership with other anti-vaccine activists, despite repeated calls by a range of leading haredi rabbis to get vaccinated. 

“There is so much mistrust right now across the globe, but very heavily in the Orthodox community right now,” Blimi Marcus, an Orthodox nurse and president of the Emes Initiative, a co-sponsor of the event, told the New York Jewish Week. “COVID caused a lot of additional mistrust that existed beforehand. People had a hard time with changing guidelines, mixed messaging, and feeling targeted by policies that were directed at specific communities.” 

Last year, polio resurfaced in the United States for the first time in nearly a decade when an Orthodox Jewish man from Rockland County was diagnosed with the disease. One month later, New York City and state health officials announced that polio was detected in New York City wastewater, and cautioned communities to get vaccinated.  

At that time, Williamsburg, which is home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish populations in the state, had the city’s lowest rate of polio vaccination, with 56.3% of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years having had three doses of the vaccine, according to the New York Citywide Immunization Registry.

Some members of Orthodox communities campaigned against COVID vaccinations as well, despite the admonitions of community leaders, while others hesitated to get the shot due to fears that it would adversely affect fertility. At present, some Hasidic neighborhoods in Brooklyn, including Borough Park and Williamsburg, have among the lowest levels of COVID vaccination in the city.

And in 2019, haredi Orthodox communities in the state experienced a measles outbreak that was tied to low vaccination rates. That outbreak also saw the growth of a vocal anti-vaccination campaign among Orthodox Jews.

Anti-vax activists are raising their voices against Sunday’s event as well. A flier has surfaced over the past week that is calling the event a “terrible Chilul Hashem,” or desecration of God’s name.

Well that escalated.

There is nothing anti-Jewish about a health event to prevent polio and to support community pediatricians in their holy work caring for our children in challenging times.

This is nonsense.

On the flip side, registration went up exponentially today

— Blimi Marcus DNP RN (@MarcusBlimi) May 17, 2023

“People who deny that [God] created the world are scheduled to speak to the frum community at The Williamsburg Hotel,” the flier said, using a Jewish term connoting Orthodoxy. “Please help avert this terrible Chilul Hashem. Rabbonim [rabbis] have requested that whoever can possibly come, should join to stand up for Kavod Shamiyim,” or the honor of heaven. 

A leading voice against the protests has been a blogger who goes by the name of Boruch Weiss. Weiss has written multiple articles calling the event “an atheist convention,” and did not respond to a request for comment.

“It must be noted that the beliefs espoused at this convention are a lot closer to Nazi ideology than they are to Judaism,” Weiss wrote. “It would be remiss not to mention that it was precisely this sort of ideology that led to the atrocities.” 

Despite the protests, Marcus told the New York Jewish Week over the phone that “most people are looking forward” to the event. She recalled that previous protests of similar events did not draw “much of a turnout,” though she said there will be security present. 

“This is one of the first times we’re bringing together most of the ultra-Orthodox providers from different communities around the tristate area,” Marcus said.

At the height of the pandemic in 2020, many in the city’s Orthodox community felt unfairly targeted by COVID restrictions that closed schools, parks and houses of worship. Orthodox protesters in Brooklyn burned masks and, at one point, cornered, mobbed and threatened a Hasidic reporter.

“A lot of people have taken all of this and come away with the message that no one is to be trusted except ourselves,” Marcus said. “They don’t want to hear from anyone that has beliefs that are different from theirs.” 

Marcus said that Sunday’s event is “open to people from the Jewish community and beyond.”

“We can always learn from each other,” Marcus said. “Vaccine hesitancy is not limited to the Orthodox community. By far, it’s a global public health problem.”

The post Anti-vaccine protest planned for Orthodox health event in Brooklyn appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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