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Yeshivas Fail To Turn Over Vaccination Records As Measles Outbreak Worsens

People walk past a sign outside of health clinic with warnings about measles in the Orthodox Jewish area of Williamsburg on April 25
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People walk past a sign outside of health clinic with warnings about measles in the Orthodox Jewish area of Williamsburg on April 25 JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

One of the largest networks of Jewish yeshivas in New York City, United Talmudical Academy, has been cited more than 10 times for failing to turn over medical records showing whether their students have been vaccinated, amid the largest measles outbreak the city has witnessed in 28 years.

The network now owes more than $2,400 in fines because it has stood up administrative law judges on three separate hearing dates for city Health Department violations issued for failing to turn over immunization records, records show.

The schools could face additional fines to the tune of $10,000 for additional alleged violations, according to officials at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, which maintains records of the summonses.

Samuel Stern, a community activist speaking on behalf of United Talmudical Academy, said the school had been papered with fines and had some of their yeshivas closed by the Health Department right before the Passover holidays. He said administrators prioritized fixing violations, rather than appearing at a summons hearing.

In addition, Stern confirmed the school’s new policy that was announced in letters to parents of unvaccinated students in mid-April, warning that any child sent in without immunization or proof of measles immunity could get the entire family expelled from school.

“[Yeshivas] are being blamed for the failure of a small percentage of parents when they’re the ones actually doing most of the good work,” Stern said, adding the small group of parents have made repeated attempts to get their unvaccinated kids back into class against health department orders. “It’s a real battle.”

Stern estimated that of approximately 10,000 students at the network’s roughly dozen locations in Williamsburg, just 1 percent of the student body still hasn’t been vaccinated for measles.

Last August, the city’s Department of Education also cited United Talmudical Academy for failing to grant access to two of its schools for observers to determine whether they had been providing adequate secular education.

The yeshiva network is not the only institution hit with fines in the city’s efforts to stop the spread of measles in Williamsburg. Some 23 yeshivas have been hit with summonses in April and could face fines of $1,000 or more. Administrative law judges have already upheld fines for the following schools:.

  • Khhd Yoel of Satmar BP-Central UTA on Skillman Avenue was fined $2,000 for failing to exclude unvaccinated children based on a March 19 inspection. That school also skipped its hearing date. School administrator Yeol Weisz said he thought he’d handled the violation online.
  • Bais Yakov Adas Yereim on Bedford Avenue was fined $200 after an administrative hearing on Wednesday for not keeping all immunization records on site. Yitty Mayer, an employee of the school, said after the hearing that the school has moved the records from its main office to the school building.
  • Mosodos Chasidei Square on Heyward Street, which is associated with the Hasidic Square sect, was fined $1,000 after a hearing Wednesday for not providing immunization records on an April 3 inspection.
  • Talmud Torah D’Nitra on Bedford Avenue was fined $200 for not having medical records on site.

In some cases, yeshiva administrators say they have tried to comply with the Health Department’s orders and kept unvaccinated children from attending class, but parents have been uncooperative. According to Mayer, the employee at Bais Yakov of Adas, the parents of five unvaccinated children have repeatedly called the school demanding that their children be let back in.

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