Prominent Orthodox school: no more religious exemptions from vaccines

The school's two principals say that Jewish law obligates vaccination rather than prohibiting it.

April 19, 2019 02:06
1 minute read.
A sign warning people of measles in Williamsburg, April 11, 2019

A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg, two days after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn in response to a measles outbreak, is seen in New York, U.S., April 11, 2019. (photo credit: SHANNON STAPLETON / REUTERS)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


NEW YORK (JTA) — A prominent Modern Orthodox school in New York City will no longer accept religious exemptions to vaccination from its students.

Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy and High School, known as SAR, made the announcement Thursday that affects its preschool through high school. More than 500 cases of measles have spread throughout the country this year in an outbreak linked to haredi Orthodox Jews.

The Jewish Center, a Manhattan Orthodox synagogue, announced Wednesday that any child who enters its premises must be “in full compliance with the vaccination recommendations of the State of New York.” Congregation Beth Aaron, an Orthodox synagogue in Teaneck, New Jersey, has adopted the same policy.

Parents may request a religious exemption by saying they have chosen not to vaccinate their children because vaccination violates their “genuine and sincere religious beliefs.” SAR’s two principals say that Jewish law obligates vaccination rather than prohibiting it.

“Based on the school’s understanding of [Jewish law], SAR will not recognize any claim of religious exemption from vaccination,” Binyamin Krauss and Tully Harcsztark, of the lower and high schools, respectively, wrote in a Thursday email to parents. They said the obligation to vaccinate stems from the biblical verse commanding Jews to “Be very careful about your lives.”

Krauss did not respond to an email and phone call requesting comment and an estimate of how many students are unvaccinated.

Joseph Aron, a Brooklyn attorney focusing on religious and constitutional issues, said that while New York state law allows for religious exemptions, private schools are not obligated to accept them. Schools also do not have to take on an “undue burden” to accept medical exemptions, which occur when a doctor says vaccines will hurt a child’s health, he said. SAR will still accept medical exemptions.

“There’s no obligation for a school to accept a religious exemption,” Aron said. “The school has total autonomy. The school doesn’t have to bend backwards and accept me if I have a medical reason to not get vaccinated.”

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

No rain, no flowers: A red carpet of anemones in the Negev’s Shokeda Forest.
May 25, 2019
Rabbi Lawrence Troster, Jewish environmental activist, dies at 65