Rabbi: Lets recommit to one another and get the polio vaccine | Opinion – NJ.com

Posted By on October 15, 2022

By Sruli Fried and Dovid Friedman

There are two central concepts in Jewish tradition that speak to our peoples passionate regard for unity, kindness, and charity. The first is that to save one life is to save an entire world. The second is that all people are responsible for one another.

These Talmudic moral principles inspire a deep-seated respect for one another and the unparalleled value of charity, compassion and human life.

These are values that fundamentally characterize our Jewish community, around the world, and here in the Lakewood area. Our community is home to countless charitable organizations and innovations and tremendous philanthropy dedicated to providing life-saving, life-sustaining, and financial support for the sick and impoverished. Time and again we have stepped up to help one another.

It is with this in mind that we call on our community once more to respond to the recent polio outbreak, which has led our neighbors to the north to declare a state of emergency, after a confirmed case and polio samples were found in wastewater in several nearby New York counties.

While the New Jersey Department of Health shows that the state overall has a high polio vaccination rate of 97.7% overall and 95.2% here in Ocean County significantly higher than neighboring Orange and Rockland counties in New York it is still critical that every one of us does our part to stop the spread of this dangerous and life-threatening disease.

Our purpose here is not to rehash a debate over vaccination in general. The pain of the chasm that has erupted in global society over the recent years is something that God should spare us from ever witnessing again.

Yet we are fully aware that the current apathy to established childhood vaccines is not taking place in a vacuum but is directly linked to those events. The journal Nature recently wrote how childhood vaccination rates are at a 30-year low in the wake of the pandemic so one would have to be ignorant not to make that correlation.

There is therefore an urgent need for all in positions of influence to come forth and say that while claims of religious freedoms or rights to personal privacy might be respectable in many cases, they cannot trump the far more fundamental rights to live a right that has been blessedly strengthened by the technological wonders introduced decades ago by the polio and other similar vaccines.

In this current debate, the reality is that every parent or individual who chooses to refrain or delay childhood vaccination is contributing, perhaps unwillingly, to the promotion of the belief that childhood vaccine refusal can be condoned.

But it cannot be condoned.

On the basic medical level, polio was a disease that had practically disappeared as a result of vaccination. And on the moral level, the very nature of infectious disease means that ones actions impact their families, neighbors, communities and, eventually, the world.

If we claim to be people of compassion, where we elevate lifesaving and unity to the highest levels, then we need to embrace those ideals whenever we are given the chance.

This is that chance.

We speak from very personal perspectives where we are literally pleading for a widespread re-examination of this issue. We are privileged to lead two community-based organizations, Chai Lifeline New Jersey and CHEMED, which help thousands of children and families, many of whom are now threatened by infectious outbreaks.

These include children with congenital or acquired conditions with suppressed immunity who would become the most susceptible victims if polio or other infectious diseases such as measles are not quashed. They are no less deserving of health than all those of us who were vaccinated for these diseases decades ago when it was so obvious that God had extended us his hand through the form of medical technology, and we were blessed to take it.

We write these words at the start of the Jewish New Year. This is a period of renewal and reflection, and a time for us all to recommit to one another. To our Jewish brothers and sisters, it is in your hands to save lives and prove that the values of charity and compassion will be what continue to define our people.

May you make that choice and may all humanity be blessed with a new year of happiness and true health.

Rabbi Sruli Fried, MSW, is the director of Chai Lifeline New Jersey.

Dr. Dovid Friedman is the CEO of CHEMED, which leads organizations dedicated to providing psychosocial support and healthcare to children and families in Lakewood and surrounding areas.

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Rabbi: Lets recommit to one another and get the polio vaccine | Opinion - NJ.com

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