A prominent Jewish organisation is cutting ties with a longtime Massachusetts rabbi for actively promoting anti-vaccine views and strident opposition to public health efforts to rein in the coronavirus pandemic.
Central Massachusetts Chabad said on Thursday it dismissed Rabbi Michoel Green as a representative of the organisation, which oversees Jewish community centres in the region, on January 27.
Green has run the Chabad house in Westborough, which is a suburb of Worcester, New Englands second-largest city, for nearly 20 years.
Rabbi Mendel Fogelman, director of the Central Massachusetts Chabad, said in a statement that Green has been warned multiple times that his activities, statements and other personal pursuits are “contrary to the organisations mission” of providing meaningful ways for Jews to learn about and celebrate their heritage.
“Some of his public pronouncements were extremely reckless and potentially dangerous, and he has repeatedly been hostile and offensive to those who did not agree with him,” Fogelman said. “Our organisation is about lovingly reaching out to every Jew.” In a lengthy statement to supporters on Thursday, Green called the decision “ill-advised” and expected it would be reversed.
He stressed his centre will continue to operate even though the Chabad Lubavitch movement has terminated his status and removed his centre from its database of recognised Chabad houses.
Green said his centre is incorporated as an independent, nonprofit house of worship and does not receive funding from any Chabad organisation.
“They did not fire me from my position of rabbi and director of Chabad of Westboro, nor do they have any jurisdiction over our shul altogether,” he said in part. “Our shul will continue to serve our community as we have faithfully for nearly two decades.” Green, who describes himself on Facebook as “not just anti-vax” but “consistently anti-pharma”, has been highly critical of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
He has claimed the vaccines are “experimental injections” that could lead to “death, lifelong injury and infertility”. In fact, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines result in sterilisation. The vaccines approved for use in the US have gone through large trials and intense scrutiny with thousands of people having received one or both shots at this point.
Green has also been critical of basic virus safety guidelines such as wearing a face mask in public. In one post, he encourages people to “take off the mask. Slow the spread of tyranny”. That is also inaccurate — the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks are a simple but highly effective way to slow the spread of the disease.
In a follow-up statement, Green stood by his prior comments on the vaccine and virus safety.
“This is not about me personally, but about censorship, suppression of dissent, and kowtowing to medical tyranny,” he said in part. “If your doctor or rabbi pressures you to get this experimental injection, find a new doctor or rabbi.” Orthodox Jewish communities in the New York City-area have bristled at government efforts to slow the pandemic, which has hit their enclaves particularly hard.
Some Jewish leaders complain the measures are discriminatory, while others have urged their faithful to heed social distancing and other public health rules.
An order by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo temporarily limiting the size of religious gatherings in certain coronavirus hot spots this past fall prompted protests and legal challenges in Brooklyn and other heavily Orthodox Jewish areas of the state.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)