Up to now, Temple Beth Shalom has not believed that a formal vaccination policy for the Kehillat Religious School was necessary due to required vaccinations for children in public schools. However, there have been recent outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases caused by the lack of vaccinations. Specifically, the number of measles cases in the U.S. has reached its second-highest level in 25 years, with 555 total cases reported in the first four months of 2019 alone. The lack of vaccination presents a clear public health threat.
Parents send their children to synagogue and assume that their children will enjoy themselves, have positive social interactions, learn from the rich Jewish environment, and be safe and healthy. Safety and public health are priorities for all URJ organizations -- including Temple Beth Shalom. The vaccination of all members of the community is essential in order to maintain a safe environment and decrease the risk of transmission of preventable illnesses. The establishment of a safe environment must therefore include the requirement that all members of the TBS Kehillat Torah Religious School community be adequately immunized against all of the preventable diseases as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
While parents may choose to defer the vaccination of their children, for the URJ and therefore TBS, this is an issue of public health. The routine vaccination of all children and faculty in the Kehillat Torah Religious School is an important public health matter for all, including vulnerable populations. In fact, the Central Conference of American Rabbis “endorses programs of compulsory immunization in our communities, with exemptions granted to those individuals whose medical conditions place them at particular risk of injury or untoward side effects. Aside from those individual cases, there are no valid Jewish religious grounds to support the refusal to immunize as a general principle.” CCAR Responsa 5759.10.
Given the overriding Jewish value that puts a premium on maintaining health, including taking preventive measures, along with the clear public health based need to protect the TBS youth community as a whole, TBS now requires that all children and staff involved in the Kehillat Torah Religious School programs be immunized as explained below.
Any individual who attends as a student and/or who teaches in our Kehillat Torah Religious School (whether children or adults) must have up-to-date, age-appropriate vaccines as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Each year, the American Academy of Pediatrics publishes a “Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule.” Practicing pediatricians across North America consider this the standard of care, and indeed the context in which they practice. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control has established vaccine standards for adults. Currently, these vaccines are:
TBS strongly recommends, but does not require, that students and staff have these vaccines:
In addition, due to recent outbreaks of Pertussis and to the possibility that immunity may deteriorate over time, TBS strongly recommends the Tdap booster for those age 7 and over who need a Tetanus-containing booster and who have not already had one Tdap.
Each year, there are a significant number of flu cases. Therefore, to minimize the chances that our students and staff could become ill, TBS strongly recommends that all students and staff also receive the flu vaccine each year.
Religious School Vaccination Form
Beginning in Summer 2019, and for all subsequent new religious school registrations, TBS requires families to submit an online form verifying their child(ren) have received these vaccinations. Families are not to submit immunization forms or other medical records.
Rather than submitting immunization forms, families will verify that their children are up to date on their vaccinations and provide a physician name and number. Families may also indicate that their student(s) is medically exempt from vaccinations, also with a physician name and number.
This form will be required in order for students to be able to attend religious school and youth group events.
TBS recognize the individuals who have a documented allergy or severe adverse reaction to a particular vaccine will not be able to receive further doses of that individual vaccine. In addition, individuals with medical conditions such as congenital immunodeficiency or HIV, malignancies receiving chemotherapy, transplant patients and persons receiving immunosuppressive drugs and chronic steroids, will not be able to receive certain vaccines.
In these instances, a physician documenting the medical condition and exempting the child or adult from further doses of that specific vaccine must be furnished to TBS. In addition, if an individual or his/her family believes that a specific situation poses extenuating circumstances, and furnishes a letter from a medical doctor (MD or OD) substantiating this belief, then TBS will review the situation on a case-by-case basis and determine whether an exemption to the immunization policy can be made.
Under no circumstances will TBS accept an ideological or other non-medical-based opposition towards vaccinations (in which a child could be vaccinated, but is not) as a policy exemption.
The risk of disease transmission is greatest among unvaccinated children. Therefore, TBS requires that all children attending the Kehillat Torah Religious School be vaccinated according to the vaccination schedule used by the public school system where the child resides unless they are unable to do so for documented medical reasons. Parents or guardians must verify on their child’s enrollment and registration form for TBS Kehillat Torah Religious School that their child has been vaccinated. The child will not be allowed to attend Kehillat Torah Religious School or participate in any of its programs unless and until this verification is provided.
Adult teachers and volunteers in the Kehillat Torah Religious School are also required to be vaccinated. Letters of Agreement for staff and volunteers will require the individual to verify that the individual complies with the policy and that the individual’s immunizations are up to date.
Temple Beth Shalom © 2015