A state public awareness campaign advising New Yorkers considering a...

A state public awareness campaign advising New Yorkers considering a trip to Israel for Passover to get vaccinated for police sparked allegations of antisemitism. Credit: TNS/Dreamstime

The state Department of Health has discontinued an effort urging New Yorkers considering an Israel trip for Passover to get the polio vaccine — a public awareness campaign that sparked claims of bigotry and antisemitism.

The department launched the effort earlier this month after Israel's Ministry of Health confirmed that four children had tested positive for the poliovirus in the northern part of the country, after one unvaccinated child presented symptoms of paralysis. 

With Passover beginning April 5, the health department Friday sent an LED mobile truck to predominantly Jewish neighborhoods where travel to Israel was likely to occur, officials said, including Five Towns, as well as parts of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Rockland County.

A billboard on the truck, which was parked Monday in front of the Gourmet Glatt supermarket in Cedarhurst, read: “Polio is spreading in Israel. Get immunized now."

The advertisements were pulled on Tuesday following complaints by some in the community, said Sam Miller, the state health department's associate commissioner of external affairs.

"After hearing feedback that mobile van ads intended to reach New Yorkers in their communities could be interpreted as blaming the communities themselves for the spread of polio, the department immediately pulled those ads," Miller told Newsday in a statement on Tuesday. "The Department of Health remains committed to serving New York’s State’s diverse communities, and we strongly condemn anti-Semitism. We will continue to work with our partners to stop the spread of a once-eradicated disease that causes preventable, life-threatening paralysis.”

Opponents of the campaign, including State Assemb. Ari Brown (R-Cedarhurst), said it reinforced a decades-old antisemitic trope, previously used by the Nazis.

"It’s the same 'Jews spread disease libel,' " wrote Brown, who also serves as Cedarhurst's deputy mayor, in a letter Monday to Health Department officials objecting to the truck.

"I will fight antisemitism and will not be silent whether it’s from a government official, media, academic institution, or whomever," wrote Brown, who said he had received hundreds of phone calls from residents complaining about the message.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who, like Brown, is Jewish, said the ad "contained wording that could be perceived as anti-Semitic rhetoric."

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

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