January 16, 2022 Street poster: a kosher vaccine?
I was in Williamsburg with an acquaintance when I walked by a street poster that announced: “The vaccine that works according to all opinions!” It had a picture of a COVID-19 vaccine bottle. I snapped a picture and didn’t read the rest. I thought it might be the first pro-vaccine messaging I’ve seen on the streets.
The mainstream Hasidic covid stuff I have seen lately has not taken a stance for or against vaccines. As I discussed in my video on Hasidic newspapers, there is definitely a lot of exciting Hasidic media coverage around variants, but that doesn’t translate into advice on the injection.
Well, at home, I read the whole poster. This is what it said:
The vaccine that works according to all opinions!
In recent times, the world of doctors and rabbis has been in uproar over the “vaccine”; if it is healthy or not. Let us present a “vaccine” that our holy sage the Chofetz Chaim gives us directly from The Healer of all Beings, a vaccine on which there is no debate whatsoever if it is good or not. It is 100% effective for everyone, young and old!
[And here is the text from the Chofetz Chaim:]
“It is amazing that people seek out cures… and they shell out thousands of dollars, everyone according to his ability and need. They should rather constantly adhere to the commandment to respond to prayers with “amen.” This is easy and it brings all sorts of good tidings to individual Jews and to the entire Jewish people…”
An interesting vaccine indeed!
There is something else I read in this poster, besides the evident religious notion which proposes that healing comes from piety in the same way as it comes from medicine. I also notice that the poster describes the vaccine issue as a “raging debate” among community leaders, not as a unanimous endorsement from authorities. This is a big part of the reason why this community doesn’t embrace vaccines as the rest of the city has: They have their own media apparatus. Hasidic media doesn’t speak in the same voice as secular media. When it comes to covid messaging, the unprecedented propaganda we have seen in NYC — with articles shaming, deriding, blaming, accusing, manipulating, psychoanalyzing, coercing those who don’t comply — does not exist here. Here, a debate rages on the topic, and it’s certainly not unquestionably “settled science.”
For instance, Der Yid Daily ran two interesting recent surveys: one asking if people were worried about omicron, the other asking if people agree with a vaccine mandate. In both cases, the number of “yeas” was low.
I anticipate that as the media and government start to put pressure on this community to comply, as we have seen with the recent private school staff mandate, many Hasidic community officials will come out with more full-mouthed endorsements. These are largely pragmatic stances aimed at avoiding controversy and criticism from the outside. While the leaders might not specifically be pro or anti-vaccine, they are for preventing media spectacles, and they pick their battles carefully.