NYC’s Top Doctors Acknowledge Past Mistakes, Vow to Better Engage with Jewish Communities

NYC’s Top Doctors Acknowledge Past Mistakes, Vow to Better Engage with Jewish Communities

By Yehudit Garmaise

  In a conference call today in which New York City’s top physicians reached out to members of the heimish media to reduce vaccination hesitation, after two Jewish reporters informed the physicians that the “city’s outreach and communication with our community has not been the greatest,” Dave A. Chokshi, MD, New York City’s health commissioner, and Health + Hospitals CEO Mitch Katz, MD, apologized. 

  “So much of the information changed day by day,” said Dr. Katz, who reassured callers that the city was doing its best and no perceived slights were in any way intentional. “Now, we need to ask every day, ‘How do we go forward and do a better job?’ Our goal is always to do better each day."

  In the last two months alone, the city’s health department has improved communications with the Jewish community by initiating 15 information sessions with “organizations like the Jewish Community Relations Council, a number of rabbis across Brooklyn, Queens, and all across NYC, working with the Charedi Health Coalition, Hatzalah, and Agudah Israel,” said Dr. Chokshi, who was happy to see that to see that many Jewish organizations wantedto  combat misinformation and increase vaccination rates.

    Besides for initiating education outreach with Jewish community leaders and hosting conference calls with Jewish reporters, Dr. Chokshi described that in addition to the city’s mass vaccination sites, he would like to build “vaccination pods that are right in the Orthodox Jewish communities,” to make it easier and more comfortable to Jewish people to get vaccinated.

   “All that limits us right now is supply, which is likely to grow very soon,” said Dr. Chokshi, who expects that “by April” the city will have enough vaccine to give shots to everyone who wants one. 

   Dr. Chokshi described other innovative ways to get the word out that the vaccine is safe, effective, and life-saving.

   Sound trucks should go through neighborhoods, and local artists can make visual art to help get public health messages out, Dr. Chokshi said.

   While many New Yorkers follow the medical advice of prominent doctors without hesitation, many Boro Parkers, BoroPark24 told the Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Katz, are more likely to do as their rebbeim do and say.

   “In order to persuade people in the community who are distrustful of the vaccine, would you consider reaching out to prominent rabbis to have them publicly endorse the vaccine for the communities?” BoroPark 24 asked.

   “We have the humility to recognize that many of these conversations [about the safety of the vaccination] are most effective when they are had within neighborhoods and religious communities,” said Dr. Chokshi, who added the city’s health department has been working with faith leaders and community-based organizations as part of its outreach effort for public health.

    In fact, Jewish “partners who welcomed engagement with the city’s health department have been really critical to ensure that we are responding to what their community members are asking them,” Dr. Chokshi said. “We want to engage with them in a way that is culturally competent and responsive to what people are asking.”

Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

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