Resolution on Immunization

Posted on: Tuesday March 24, 2020

Whereas consistent enthusiastic rabbinic support for immunization has defined Jewish practice and medical ethics ever since the 1796 introduction of Edward Jenner’s pioneering smallpox vaccine, and 

Whereas timely vaccination is a basic and necessary requirement of appropriate pediatric care, and 

Whereas, pikuach nefesh, preservation of life and health is a primary obligation of Jewish Law, tradition, and morality, and

Whereas, parents have a vital religious and moral duty to protect their children from danger and disease with the most effective and appropriate means at their disposal as it says “Devote your heart to instruction…Do not withhold corrective measures from your child” (Proverbs 23:12-13) and Gersonides’ comment: “Protect your child that he not suffer physical death prematurely”, and

Whereas, the best science available properly drives, and in no way conflicts with Jewish faith, an

Whereas routine childhood immunization has eradicated smallpox, saving countless thousands of lives each year, and dramatically reduced the incidence of other formerly devastating conditions, and

Whereas infectious childhood diseases and their carriers represent a life-threatening hazard, endangering countless potential victims, and 

Whereas the self-stigmatizing scandal of immunological recalcitrance and contagion among Jews is inconsistent with our founding, covenantal mission to “be a blessing” and an object of blessing to “all the families of the earth,” (Genesis 12:2-3) and

Whereas, Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffman (Melamed L’hoi’il 2:104, Frankfurt, 1926) ruled regarding pediatric procedures that “We do not find anywhere at all in the Torah that parents have a right to endanger the lives of their children by preventing the doctor from treating them,” and

Whereas the Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has, without dissent, adopted a responsum entitled “Compulsory Immunization in Jewish Day Schools” (HM 427:8.2005), ruling that “parents have an unambiguous religious obligation to have their children immunized” and that “failure to immunize children against vaccine-preventable disease is a serious, compound violation of Jewish Law,” and

Whereas Jewish Law affirms that “The law of the land is the Law,” and 

Whereas, all fifty of the United States mandate immunization for admission to public schools, and Canadian law is so framed as similarly to urge vaccination, 

Therefore, be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly reaffirm that (unless a specific vaccination is medically contra-indicated for a particular child, and so documented by a reliable physician) refusal to immunize against infectious disease is absolutely inconsistent with Jewish Law, piety, and morality, and 

Be it further resolved, that the Rabbinical Assembly and its members take effective measures to articulate this classical, normative Jewish attitude toward immunization to the public at large, to government officials, Jewish communal, educational, and institutional leaders, and to individual Jews and Jewish families, and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly work directly with its constituent congregations, camps, and schools to establish and dutifully enforce standards (consistent with standard pediatric practice) mandating vaccination of their youth participants and those to whom, under their aegis, those children will be exposed.