Who is to blame for the measles epidemic in the Haredi community

It is no coincidence that the latest spike in unvaccinated children has arisen in the Haredi community in New York. Whilst the leading rabbis of the community have called on their followers to vaccinate their children to prevent the epidemic from spreading they must still bear a share of the responsibility for it in the first place.

Why should the epidemic have arisen in this community?  Its leaders bring their followers up to despise scientists whether Jewish or non-Jewish and to have no respect for non-Jews even when in authority. They are encouraged to believe that Rabbis have a monopoly on true knowledge whether religious or secular. Whereas science is changing and fallible the Torah and Talmud are immutable and infallible.

Some even go so far as to proclaim the doctrine of Da’as Torah; that a Rabbi who has mastered the ancient and medieval texts that make up the corpus of Rabbinic learning is to be listened to and followed on any subject however unrelated to their area of expertise. It has even been argued that precisely their lack of education and their ignorance of secular subjects gives these Rabbis  a clearer perspective on the world.

These ideas are not the preserve of a few extremists. Even Rabbis regarded as not strictly Haredi come up with similar doctrines. Here in North West London an independent orthodox rabbi refused to disavow Maimonides’ assertion that the sun goes round the earth. After all he argued Newton has been disproved by Einstein and who is to say Einstein might not be disproved by someone agreeing with Maimonides? Since writing this I have discovered that the last Lubavitcher Rebbe revered by many outside his community and believed to be the Messiah by even more inside it was a geocentrist.

And what about the Rabbi in Golders Green who pointed out that Evolution is only a theory? and one which is full of holes and is incompatible with belief in the Torah. With Sages like this not only in position but revered as fountains of wisdom can it be surprising that their credulous followers fall prey to anti-scientific non-sense?

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