I made a video. You have not seen a video this ammueture since 1997. I wanted to try video instead of writing, because I thought it might be more enjoyable. So I spent an hour ranting into my Samsung Galaxy camera and then cut out all the times I got up to pet the dog, etc.

The video is on the measles outbreak, and all major theological, philosophical, economical, medical and other tangentially related issues to the measles or to things tangentially related to the measles. I tried to address many questions about the measles outbreak in a Q&A format. It was a panel with just me.

Here is the text, which I ended up writing anyway.

 

ABOUT THE MEASLES OUTBREAK

Is it safe to tour the Hasidic community during the outbreak?

I am no doctor, so I’ll tell you what my doctor told me: “Make sure you’re immune and you’re good”. If you were vaccinated, you are probably okay, but you might want to get a blood test to check if you are immune. They call it “titers”, with a hard I, like tiger, tights, like aie yaiy yaiy (per dictionary.com) So get that – the tay-ters. I got mine and have evidence of immunity to measles, mumps and rubella and I feel good about that.

If you have a baby who isn’t vaccinated, then talk to the pediatrician. A couple of people with babies changed plans because of the measles, and I get it. I’ll totally work with you if that’s your situation.

So the outbreak is scary. What’s going on?

Looks like a recurrence in several countries around the world, from where it spreads. It reached the New York Hasidic community via Israel from Ukraine, where there were more cases than any other country. From February 2018 to March 2019 they had 72,408 cases; in 2016 the WHO reported only 42% of kids were vaccinated.

I read about Hasidic anti-vaxxers. Is Hasidism anti-vaccine?

No.

The Williamsburg Hasidic community is pro-vaccines. There are always individual opinions and dissenters, as anywhere. They are an asterisk. I will talk about them later. But they are the exceptions, not the rules. You can say Americans embrace individual freedoms, and you can say Hasidim embrace vaccines. In both instances it doesn’t hold true for every single dingle person, but it is a correct generalization.

But Hasidim are anti-science and anti-modernity?

Nah. You can’t generalize like that. Maybe we can say Hasidim are against Enlightenment values and philosophies. But they are very much a modern phenomenon, shaped in the womb of modernity.

When it comes to many medicines, Hasidim are very eager to embrace the latest technologies – even if these technologies were developed by understanding evolution. Read about Hasidim doing in vitro fertilization in this really fascinating article in the Washington Post. The Hasidic charity organizations for the sick, Bikur Cholim, were in the news because Hasidic volunteers pushed for extending life which seemed to clash with NYU’s counseling for, say, patients on a ventilator who are only alive because of machines. From Jewish Breaking News; “They say that the NYU health system’s approach to end-of-life care has changed and conflicts with the Orthodox Jewish approach to issues surrounding ending life support and administering palliative care — and the hospital doesn’t want observers witnessing decisions that to Orthodox eyes may fall short of extending life by any means available.” Or check out Dor Yeshorim, an organization that performs genetic testing before marriage and according to their website, “successfully eliminates the agonizing occurrence of fatal and debilitating genetic diseases in Jewish families worldwide through its premarital genetic screening program.” It is as if Hasidim have almost no religious comments on many life-saving sciences, because once it is life-saving, it is usually “kosher” by definition. Think of the expression pekuach nefesh docheh shabbes, which means that to save a soul, the shabbes can be desecrated.

 

But Hasidim are anti-science in other way; they reject life-saving changes to circumcision practices or education. Isn’t this vaccine issue the same?

Dear New York Times: not the same. Ugh, the Times loves lump one Hasidic issue in with another. An annoying op-ed by some suspiciously unknown and supposedly Hasidic person, Moshe Friedman (who is he/she really?), brings up these two frequently cited parallels:

1. Metzitzah b’peh (the part of ritual circumcision that exposes the newborn to potential transmission of herpes.)

“When Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration in 2012 introduced rules that required parental consent before an infant could have a form of ritual circumcision believed to be linked to the spread of herpes, some rabbis denounced those efforts as a blood libel or “the evil plans of the New York City health department.”
Some rabbis derided the health department’s scientific expertise, and one respected rabbi went as far as to question the health department’s statistics. “

2. Education (the Hasidic community’s minimal secular curriculum for boys)

“In more recent years, when the Department of Education pushed for an increase in secular studies in the city’s yeshivas, some of our leaders once again instigated their community to oppose these much-needed reforms.”

3. Vaccines: .

“We see this same approach now among some of our leaders toward vaccines. Some rabbis are contributing to the spread of disinformation, repeating unfounded claims about the health risks of the M.M.R. vaccine.”

So Friedman concludes:

“Whether out of shortsightedness or strategic malice, some of our religious leaders have directly fostered an atmosphere where thorough research is sneered at, the scientific method is doubted and the motivations of professionals are assumed to be nefarious and steeped in anti-religious animus.”

I don’t even know how to write a straight sentence without grinding my jaw down. Such sloppy simplifications. We can see from other examples that Hasidim clearly are not “doubting the scientific method” or assuming that the motivations of professionals are nefarious. Because surely that adds up with the Hasid who is going to top doctors for a transplant. “I’ll go to the top doctor. The top nefarious doctor!” Thought nobody.

By the way this author also incorrectly identified the leader of the largest sect in Williamsburg. He clearly has no expertise or insight. He seems to get all his information about Hasidim from the New York Times. Even if he is Hasidic, and of the sect in question, he does not add any information that an outsider wouldn’t have – so what’s the point?

But vaccines are not kosher…?

Again the New York Times: “some view vaccines as a violation of kosher restrictions and a danger to children’s health.”

And is a kosher phone edible? And are kosher cameras properly slaughtered? And are kosher pigs properly vaccinated? These are questions that should keep you up at night.

But then why aren’t they cooperating with the city?

They are. 21,284 doses of the MMR vaccine have been administered to people who are under 19 years old in Williamsburg and Borough Park since October, per the New York City Health website.

Seven yeshivas were closed, but they were also reopened.

Maybe not so well-organized. Maybe not willing to get into big wars with parents. But not not cooperating.

When the Hasidic community decides not to cooperate, like with the New York Sate education standards, there are mass protests in huge stadiums and outcries on the front page of their newspapers and the streetposts fill with posters warning people about the impending danger from the outside. They court politicians and the rabbi meets with the bigwigs and promises votes. It’s a ruckus. With the measles outbreak, there is nothing in the newspaper. Most of the anger is directed at anti-vaxxers, not people from the outside.

Then why is the outbreak so bad?

Let’s look at BAD in perspective. Let’s say there were 360 cases – an estimate. That’s out of a population of about 100,000. That’s .36% of the population. Measles will infect almost any unvaccinated person it comes in contact with. A rate of less than a half percent shows a huge, huge success rate on the part of the vaccine.

But there are many more outbreaks among Hasidim. Doesn’t that prove they have more anti-vaxxers?

More measles cases does not mean more anti-vaxxers.
Hasidim are a more vulnerable population than the rest of society for two main reasons:

1) They have a younger population, which means there are more babies. Let me put it to you in numbers. I’ll use the census data from Kiryas Joel, a Satmar village north of New York City, because we don’t have any census data for Williamsburg Hasidim — their data is mixed with that of other Williamsburg residents. Kiryas Joel is more insular but in all important ways like Williamsburg, and there the median age is 13! Thirteen! This means that half the population is thirteen or under. Compare that to the median age in New York as a whole: 38.2. So the simple math is that Hasidim have far more very young children. Herd immunity depends on a high percent of the population being immune. If 95% of a population is immune, the virus won’t spread. But what happens if 90% of the population are under age one? It’s more likely the measles will spread.

2) The extremely close proximity of Hasidic kids. Let me illustrate how close Hasidic kids come to each other. If a Hasidic kid is not vaccinated and is infected, he will be around an average of eight children in his family, he will go to school on a bus with twenty (six days a week), he will be in a classroom with thirty, at family celebrations with fifty, in the synagogue with hundreds. The opportunity to pass contagions is enormous.

But Kiryas Joel had much fewer incidents of the outbreak.

This is super interesting and it proves a number of things. That Kiryas Joel is more organized. They collaborated with the Hudson Valley health department for a pro-vaccinate publication months ago. It is also much more authoritarian. People who don’t follow conventions are often so marginalized, they have to enjoy suffering to stay there. Most would move to Monsey or Brooklyn.

It also tells you that the outbreak wasn’t a result of some conspiratorial friendship between DiBlasio and the Hasidim. Or that Hasidim don’t want to vaccinate. Because if any of this was true, Kiryas Joel would be at the forefront and the virus would go viral (ha ha, hilarious).

So tell me about the anti-vaxxers. Spill on these juicy nuts.

Anti-vaxxers in the Hasidic community are mostly women who consider themselves enlightened about health and refuse to just follow the masses in these conspiracies they see all around them. They see themselves as smarter and more informed than the rest and refuse to “put all these chemicals” into their perfectly healthy baby’s body. They are a tiny subset of unwieldy rebels within the community. They are the same women who have home births and go to this crackpot and that witchdoctor for all sorts of jewelry-swinging cures. You know the type. People who are very busy with themselves and their special vitamins and juicing and many mishigasen.

But this Hasidic woman told reporters that she doesn’t vaccinate because it’s her “religious freedom”?

Religious freedom is an American concept. Just because one woman cries religious freedom doesn’t mean this is actually a religious issue for her. If she says you should give her a hundred dollars for her religious freedom will you also take her at face value? She is borrowing from the American vocabulary and is using it to her advantage. She learns that if she doesn’t want to vaccinate, she needs to request an exemption for religious reasons. It’s not rocket science. This same woman wouldn’t claim religious freedom to the community.
Let me give you an example: If a Hasidic lady wants to wear, ehhh, say skirts to the floor instead of mid-calf, and to the floor is not really a-okay, she won’t argue with her finger-wagging neighbor that this her religious freedom. She will try to make arguments to its religious validity – like “this is modest”. Religious freedom doesn’t fly here. What freedom? This is the Hasidic community, Lol. Concerns for freedom don’t course through its veins.

But… what about religious exemptions for vaccines?

What about? Were religious exemptions written into law for the Hasidic community? I’m sure not. Let’s dig up why it’s there – I’m curious. Again, we need numbers and details. How many religious exemptions are there and how many medical exemptions? 

Because as per the principal of KJ UTA, a lot of people will be so secretive about health problems that they will claim religious exemption in order to hide the fact that they need a medical exemption. So I don’t even know — how many religious exemptions there are on the books, and how many net exemptions are actually voluntary.

In fact, take a look at this conversation on the religious women’s forum imamother, from 2016(!):

Woman OP: “For my own reasons, I’m an declining the varicella vaccine. I do NOT want my children to have it. I know in public schools, you can claim a religious exemption, and they will be fine with the lack of vaccination. What do you do for a frum school? It’s not like I can fake a religious reason when there isn’t one.Has anyone gotten an exemption for a vaccine from their school?”

Internet Person: “The school doesn’t really care, so if you want to use a religious reason you can (mitzva to take care of the body, and you feel that giving vaccines violates that mitzva.) “

See how it goes? What comes first the religious reason or the vaccine hesitancy? Obviously not the religious reason.

But these Hasidic women wouldn’t believe such nonsense if they got a regular education.

Ehh… How do we me measure this even? Count the number of fringe folks in Silicon Valley? Look – these Hasidic women are incredibly versed in their mishigas. They are not coming to it out of innocence.

Every society will have its conspiracy theorists, its individualists who believe they are the smartest thing to happen to mankind, its walking illustrations of the Dunning Kruger effect. I’ve come to see that some people are just beyond reason. They can’t see past the end of their noses, their logic fails to account for big picture or to keep risk in perspective, they believe they understand everything and everyone else is being led like blind sheep. They form identities based on their being misfits and outsiders and relish their uniqueness. There are such people. They are just human. No?

So what do we do about these anti-vaxxers?

Make their likeness into a piñata and hit it to shreds? Shame them until their lightbulbs go on. Yeah? No. We create laws to deal with the balance between their right to believe whatever and the risk that such rights might bring to others.

The Amish also had a large outbreak in 2014. Is this like — the same cause?

I’m not any more informed about the Amish than you!

I’d caution you against extrapolating conclusions about one insular community based on information about another. Just because there are similarities doesn’t mean that they’re the same in all ways. As they will say on my epitaph: nuance, baby.

Has the media accurately portrayed the outbreak?

No. The coverage made me really angry. A bad kind of anger, the isolating, unhappy kind. Not the one where we feel really good and smart and self-righteous after ranting. I’m exhausted of my anger.

It was a coverage bad for its omissions.

It was as if the reporters simply filed the CDC press release as their stories. No context, no additional information, just whatever the CDC had as its numbers. I can look at the CDC website myself. I need the media to frame the numbers. But since they didn’t, we only learned two things:

• The number of confirmed measles cases. (Now at 764 for the US in 2019)
• That “The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.”

Journalists have been hammering on the “unvaccinated” part. But here’s the rub: they are using unvaccinated interchangeably with anti-vaxxers. Just because folks are unvaccinated doesn’t mean they are an anti-vaxxer. Think of all the people unvaccinated in a pediatric oncology ward. Or all the infants in the maternity ward. All of them are at risk and are unvaccinated! The CDC told us that lots of people who got measles were unvaccinated – but the media went straight from there to blaming anti-vaxxers. An article a day in the Times about how anti-vaxxers are all to blame, because they are unvaccinated.

Again, Williamsburg will have a greater number of unvaccinated minors. There is no greater proof of this than by looking at what the CDC did: they ordered that we vaccinate Hasidic babies at 6 months instead of a year. If the regular vaccine schedule alone worked, and the only problem was anti-vaxxers, than all we’d do would be make the anti-vaxxers vaccinate.

In fact, I asked around about specific cases and this is what some people knew of: a newborn baby who got the measles and ran a high fever for a few days (terrifying!), a sickly two year old who wasn’t able to be vaccinated and caught it, a seven month old who had already had one MMR, an adult who didn’t think they could get it. Etc. Many unvaccinated, but not anti-vaccine.

What bothered me was that we never got figures or perspective, so everyone was left with the impression that Hasidim have as a group at a large rate passed on vaccines. But the media never gave us numbers. They never provided more information. This kind of omission created hate and misinformation. Zero sympathy from the public, all blame. I find this scary.

Why do you think the media has been covering this so poorly?

Because Hasidic anti-vaxxers … are you kidding me? A double-whammy of the permitted punching bag. Both anti-vaxxers and Hasidim are fodder for outrage culture. The stubborn single anti-vaxxer lady is red meat for the mob. The public loves to pick themselves up a little bit by collectively bashing those on the list of permitted hates. This must bring in lots of clicks for the newspaper.

Who is to call out the media for malpractice? Unlike, say, Jewish issues related to Israel, Hasidim don’t do PR campaigns to push back against the reporting. If the media doesn’t self-correct, what’s to improve this?
My ranting, that’s what. Of course.

So the coverage made things look bad. Why is it really a problem?

I think reporting should be fair and complete. On principal. Even if for no other reason that we don’t try to wing it with coverage if we can get away with it.
Don’t you want your news to be accurate?
Also – you are really kind of proving to Hasidim that they are right: the media is just out to hurt them.
Also – this is creating hate. A lot of unfair hate against Jews. Really.
Also – and most importantly – healthy coverage when inaccurate fails the public. By hyper-focusing on anti-vaxxers, the media missed an important part:

Some people need to be revaccinated. 200 cases of measles were of people who were vaccinated. This is the kind of information that the public health journalism is supposed to uncover and disseminate. They didn’t, because the media was too busy salting and delivering red meat. Here is a video created by a Jewish community in which one individual came down with the measles:

Update: CNN ran a story that illustrates how a humane story can look like. Watch here.

The measles virus continues to spread, and now the Mayor of New York City has ordered all Williamsburg kids to vaccinate or face a fine. I am set up to get Google Alerts for news about the Hasidic community, and I am getting floods of links to stories about the anti-vaxxers in the community. I am still trying to jive how the stories in the news, in which the measles epidemic seems to be fueled by anti-vaxxers, matches my on-the-ground experience of the Hasidic community.

Here is what I have come to understand. A community needs 95% vaccinated population in order for the community to have herd immunity and not to be vulnerable to the outbreak. In any community, you will have a population that is unable to vaccinate, either those too young or allergic or with compromised immune systems. But these unvaccinated people will be fine so long as there is herd immunity, which, for a very contagious disease like measles that can be spread by just coughing, needs to be very high. This leaves room for only about 5% to opt out before the her immunity is breached MMR. In a community where almost every home has a baby and many are too young for the vaccine, the 5% is much more easily reached. Herd immunity is so delicate.

It looks like the measles outbreak took off when the community dropped below herd immunity rates. It was the perfect recipe for disaster when a lot of scary information about vaccines made its way around the womenfolk, and people either hesitated or delayed vaccinations. On top of that, schools didn’t insist or stay on top of its students immunization status, and doctors and community leaders didn’t aggressively counter these scary ideas. I know my son would never be enrolled in Public School without being either up to date on his shots or an exemption, but Hasidic schools can be much more lax, especially when people already forgot how bad outbreaks can be.

While the community clearly dropped below immunity, we have to ask by what ratio. Notice that according to a pro-vaccine KJ publication titled “Tzim Gezint”, the main Satmar school has only 2% vaccine exemptions. In Williamsburg, where people consider themselves a bit more worldly and are more likely to deviate from community norms, there are probably more exemptions. According to CBS2, about 100 families in Williamsburg are against vaccines. Sure, the city estimated that 1,800 children in the Hasidic Williamsburg neighborhood hadn’t been vaccinated as of December 2018 – when we just started to hear about the measles outbreak. But there has been a huge uptick in vaccinations since.

In the news, the anti-vaxxers take center stage. Their continued absurd stance is painted as the key to the problem. For instance watch these two women, whose way of thinking and modeling for the Dunning Kruger effect makes me want to tear my hair out.

 

 

But do these women reflect mainstream views? Are they anomalies? Considering they showed up to the Brooklyn Library for the announcement by the mayor and were willing to be on camera, I’d say probably not. I am wondering if these folks are going to be the Naturei Karte of the measles issue. The Naturei Karte is a radical fringe anti-zionist group which loves media attention, and even though the people who subscribe to it are a minority, they are so vocal, they are lodged in the popular imagination as the example of a standard Hasidic Jew.

What’s important to realize that once herd immunity has been compromised, the virus can spread even if the population is now up to date. It spreads to the unvaccinated population. This from the Times: “Dr. Yakov Kiffel, a pediatrician in Monsey in Rockland County, said that he has both vaccinated children and treated about a half-dozen patients with measles since the fall. He said the majority of the sick were under 6 months old — the age at which a child can be given the first dose of the M.M.R. vaccine — and members of families that said they vaccinate.”

In other words, the cat is out of the bag. Now, even if the mayor gets everyone to comply, herd immunity is destroyed, and the 5% or so who shouldn’t be vaccinated are very, very vulnerable. Think a cancer patient. Think someone very ill. Think all those tiny babies coming down with measles. They are all now susceptible even if everyone complies after-the-fact. I think the community and health officials should learn, really learn, that if you don’t vaccinate before a problem comes to town, you can’t simply quickly run to get your shots and solve the problem. Contrary to what that lady proudly believes about the problems of vaccines, preventive measures like herd immunity do a lot of good. The old adage… an ounce of prevention is worth — a thousand dollar fine and terrible medical risks and babies with red splotchy rashes and a terrible health scare for everyone else.

A very nice Hasidic gentleman who works at one of the delis I take my tours to, told us a story today. He offered the story to me and some of my tourists just as we were wrapping up and heading out, ahead of this pouring rain.

“I have a story for you. You can use it on your tours.” he said.

He likes to tell me what to say on my tours. He isn’t the only one. Hasidim with whom I interact on my tours regularly scold me for not saying this or that. “speak to the charity, speak to the ambulate, the help for the sick, the organizations like Shomrim and Chaveyrim, etc.” It cracks me up; I laugh and say ‘yeah, yeah’ and don’t take it too personally that nothing I will say will ever placate these harsh critics.

Unless I tell the story I was told today, which I will.

Mr. G tells it so:

The other day a non-Jewish gentleman was driving outside of Monroe – maybe route 32 if I heard correctly – when he got a flat tire. It was late at night, he was distraught, and along drives a Hasidic person, pulls over, asks what the matter is. This Hasidic person was from the Hasidic organizations like Chaveyrim who will change your flat for free. (They changed mine several times while I had a car).  The Hasid said “let me fix the flat for you. We do it for free.” The gentile was stunned; “but I’m not even Jewish.” The Hasid didn’t blink. Helping a gentile can result in a kiddush hashem, raising the honor of God, and was a good deed in its own way. So he rolled up his sleeve, got hold of a  fantastic new tire — (Mr. G here told of an incident where he got a new tire from Chaveyrim after mid-night) –and changed it for him. As the two got ready to get back into their cars, the gentile said:

“I want to send a note to your wife to thank her for what you did. Is that okay?”

The Hasid said of course it was! Who wouldn’t want a bit of buttering the marriage.

“And this address you gave me for the note, is that your home?”

“It’s my home, yes, why?”

“Nothing, just curious – you own it? Rent? Just curious.”

The Hasid said he owned, gave his address, bid farewell, and off he went.

A week later the Hasid got a call from the bank. “Mr. So-and-so; we want to notify you that your mortgage has been paid in full.” Yes, kids. The recipient of the act of kindness had sent a check to pay off the entire mortgage. And who was this stranger? None other than Donald Trump!

Some tourists and I gasped. It was an unexpected twist. Trump?

“Yes” said Mr. G. “True story. It was in the Daily News- check it! Trump – I tell you, he’s not as bad as you think.”

And then Mr. G told us some more stories of Trump’s acts of kindness. The stories so emphasized Trump’s miracle making for ordinary people, I had to stop myself from pointing out the resemblance between the Trump stories and the apocryphal miracle stories of Hasidic Zadikkim. In fact, the Trump elevation to Zadik is almost not totally absurd. On Yiddish language forums Hasidic men regularly describe themselves as Hasidim of Trump. They use the term Hasid colloquially as “fans of”, but the similarities to veneration of secular and religious leader is not as different as you’d think.

++

So on the train ride home, I looked for the Daily News story, and two seconds of googling led me to a number of variations of this same tale. None of them seemed to involve Hasidim, but all involve Trump rewarding a Good Samaritan tenfold for their act of kindness. According to Snopes, this saga is an urban legend. According to Trump, on the other hand, it is true. Matzav.com addressed the story in 2016 with the version in which the Good Samaritan in a Jew, and said it is fake. This story has apparently been attributed to so many celebrities, it is listed in Jan Brunvand’s Encyclopedia of Urban Legend’s, under “Celebrity Car Breakdown“. I find it fascinating that this follows the same pattern of how miracle stories of Hasidic Zadikim spread. One store gets attributed to many different persons of note, almost as if it didn’t matter who it happened with, but rather, that it could have happened with the person it is attributed to.

So there. I told the story but I ruined it too. Fact-checking sure gets all the air out of good old fashioned story telling…

So many people assume that Hasidim, like other conservative groups, vote on religious values issues. They assume that Hasidim care about gay marriage and abortion, because that’s a Christian conservative political issue. I often explain the distinction in Ultra Orthodox Jewish attitudes towards politics and that of the Conservative Right. While the conservative right considers the law as a source of moral law and instruction, Hasidim see the Torah as the source of moral law. They also don’t consider those outside of their community their moral concern. So Hasidim vote largely based on the interest of the community. 

They vote like a union. Collectively advancing the interest of the whole by voting as one, and supporting candidates seen as favorable to their “union”.

Here are some of the pre-primary election (for Governer of New York and Attorney General of New York) posters in Hasidic Williamsburg in 2018.

This poster urges people to vote for candidates who “understand and respect our rights”.
In the red part it cries “we need to ensure that the government officials don’t give in to their provocations!” This refers to Yaffed and other activist efforts that have been trying to force change in Hasidic boy’s schools through legal action with the city and state.
The poster says “in the current elections some far left candidates are running, and it is expected that they will have less understanding of our religious rights, and there is a terrible danger that they will buy into (not monetarily!) the empty provocations.

Another poster appealing to people on the grounds of preserving Hasidic education. It says “our holy education is under attack by vicious elements. The attorney general candidate “Tish James” promised to fight discrimination and vicious attacks on religion in particular.”

Again – it’s about defending Hasidic education status quo. “The future of Orthodox Judaism is on the line! Every registered democrat in the entirety of New Yor State is asked, for the good of the public and the individual, to vote in the primary elections this Thursday for Letitia (Tish) James.

This is from the newspaper and it lists the following reasons to vote for Tish James: “from parks to the eruv (wire to allow for carrying on Shabbes.) From education to building yeshivas. From businesses to social services, there are hateful elements on the street (within the population?) and in the government who aim their hate against pious Jews. An Attorney General has the choice to god-forbid join the hate, or to defend the rights of the local people and to treat with empathy in judgement when someone messes up with the law.” (Gay/abortion/Israel issues much? Ha!)

“investigations! Abloves (??), arrests!” I have no idea what abloves means; I sometimes wonder if some standard Yiddish speaker wrote these because I’ll often have to ask German speakers to translate some words for me, like “tzil bret” in this one, which I didn’t know was a shooting target.

This for Simcha Felder, another warning about the far left’s lack of religious understanding. “if you stay home, you elect left-liberals” The poster warns that this can mean no door to door transportation (for the kids, to school – Williamsburg is known to be a hub of school buses), no millions in funding for the community, danger to the traditional education.

Another ad for Simcha Felder, thanking him for helping the community, especially with the breakthrough of the “school bus transportation program”. The program helps substantially with the safety of our children, and helps with the high transportation costs of the parents.”

​In other words, you can see why people would want to vote in the bloc. Hasidic voters benefit personally from their candidates.


Here is my own opinion on this:
As someone on the very far left of much of American politics (shutter!) I find myself sympathetic to many of the issues covered here, like not prosecuting people for petty crimes and turning them into poster children of “justice” (I abhor this type of “justice”, often for the poor) and I think funding should go for social fabric programs like little children’s educations. The lessons for me is that people vote in their own best interest, if only the candidates actually serve their interests. Hasidim’s candidates often do.

Last Friday, I stopped into a deli and bought a copy of the Hasidic Yiddish paper. The September 21st Der Yid was the hefty Sukkos edition, so thick it felt like holding five newspapers stacked together. I got the paper for the Kavanaugh story on the latest allegations of sexual assault against him. I wanted to see how the Hasidic paper dealt with the taboo topic of sexual assault.

Usually, the Hasidic papers wouldn’t even cover stories about assault, skipping over headlines about Cosby or Weinstein without even bothering with censorship. It’s easy to skip over stories related to entertainment personalities in whom the community has no interest. But the Yiddish newspapers cover politics comprehensively, and stories in politics with sexual “topics” cannot be entirely ignored.

I remember clearly as a Hasidic middle schooler, learning about the Lewinsky saga and about the Bill Clinton impeachment. In fact, it was covered in our Current Events class. I believe censored copies of a news column were handed out to us, and we deliberated over if Clinton or Nixon were impeached and what the word meant. I don’t remember ever knowing why Clinton was impeached, and more astoundingly, I don’t remember ever wondering why either.

So now I wanted to see how this news is made from the other side. Here’s the first part of the Kavanaugh story on page 44.

 

 

Brett Kavanaugh’s Nomination to the Supreme Court ‘in Danger’ After New Accusations Against Him

​Trump is willing to accept small delay in the senate confirmation. Trump’s spokesperson: “the president is not yet looking at any new names to replace Kavanaugh for nomination to the Supreme Court.”
Washington – the nomination of President Trump’s Supreme Court selection, Brett Kavanaugh, found itself early this week up in the air due to new claims and the accusations that came out against the nominee.​
In a last minute flaken (?), a leading Republican senator of the Judiciary committee came out Sunday with a request to stop the confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
This comes after new information came to light and new ethical accusations against the person whom President Trump nominated to the highest court.The democrats immediately called to halt the Kavanaugh vote.But then several Republican senators also added to the their call, that the senate shouldn’t rush with the vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation to Supreme Court. The most important among the Republicans who support holding off the vote over Kavanaugh is Jeff Flake from Arizona, who has a seat on the Senate Judiciary committee.

Flake said that he needs to hear more about the most recent allegations against Kavanaugh, and a few other Republicans as usual Bob Corker of Tennessee also said they agree. Flake is one of the eleven Republican participants on the narrowly divided committee. Without his support the committee cannot send Kavanaugh’s name to the entire senate with a positive recommendations, although it can be sent without a recommendation.
Flake said Sunday that if the Committee should try to send [Kavanaugh’s name] without an attempt to hear what Kavanaugh’s most recent accusers have to say, he will not be comfortable to vote not, and he is not alone in that.
Dan Corker answered “yes” on the question if the committee should be postponed, saying that it would be the best option for everyone, including the nominee…

[…here I am not translated the opinions of Grassley, Graham and Feinstein…]

Grassley reprimanded the democrats and especially California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein for coming up with their current accusations in the last minute, saying that if it was true what is said against Kavanaugh the it could have been brought up a lot earlier. He argues that the minority side withheld the anonymous claims the entire six weeks, but the minority [Feinstein] said that they withheld it to investigate if it had enough validity and only after they decided that it did, did they come out with it.

[…here I am not translating the opinions of Trump and the White House…]

Analysts call this a smart political maneuver on the part of Trump, to give so much as to postpone the vote a little, so it doesn’t sound like they don’t want to give the accuser a chance to allow for the accusation to be heard. By given some more time, the president has the best chances to try to put the nomination – after giving the person (?) a chance to speak – on the rails.


What’s really fascinating about this to me is that there is no mention of who the accuser is or even her gender, and no attempt to explain what the accusations are about. Aside from a fleeting reference to ‘etish’ (ethical – what does that mean to anyone anyway?) allegations, the writers dive into the opinions of this Senator or that one and avoid the allegations itself entirely.

I often think about the effects this type of censorship has on its readers. The reader of a newspaper that usually provides interesting drama (to postpone or not postpone???) without enough context to help readers understand the various real issues at hand (is the accusation credible and should it play a role in a Supreme Court nomination) leads people to submit their critical judgement when reading. If you read an article about the Higgs Boson, and you know nothing about particle physics, and the article describes the need for a new accelerator, than you will go along with wherever the article takes you because you don’t feel sufficiently knowledgeable to ask questions.

That’s how I was able to read everything on the Lewinsky saga without ever stopping to ask what the impeachment is about. I would guess that during the Trump presidency with all its scandals, and with the #metoo movement bleeding into Hasidic coverage turf, many Hasidic folks (especially pre-marriage/without other access) regularly read the paper without expecting to know enough of the news to question it.