The New Yorker, January 2019

Blima Marcus is an oncology nurse and a member of the ultra-Orthodox community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where the incidence of measles has risen sharply since last fall, as it has in similar enclaves in the New York area: Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Rockland County in upstate New York; and Ocean County in New Jersey. Health officials have confirmed more than two hundred cases associated with the epidemic; the New York State Department of Health has called it the worst outbreak of measles in the state since the late nineteen-eighties.

When the outbreak began, Marcus’s cousin, who lives in Lakewood, New Jersey, told her that a large percentage of her neighbors were not vaccinating their children. “She asked me to join a text-based chat group to address some facts that were flying around that were just wrong,” Marcus said. False claims, such as the idea that vaccines cause autism, had become entrenched in the ultra-Orthodox community. A pamphlet from a Jewish organization called peach(Parents Educating and Advocating for Children’s Health), which is skeptical of vaccines, has been circulating widely; a hotline for the ultra-Orthodox community, called Akeres Habayis (“woman of the home”), also fans fears of immunization. Marcus started spending several hours a day researching scientific studies and answering questions by text. “I was so uncomfortable leaving information out there, with forty women reading it, without actively refuting it,” she says.

Women in the group reached out privately to thank Marcus for her time. Click here to read full article