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Senior Haredi rabbi who backed COVID vaccines for children receiving threats

Threats against Chaim Kanievsky being communicated in phone calls, emails and letters, with some even trying to break into his home; associates say he stands by position

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky at his home in the central city of Bnei Brak on September 22, 2020. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky at his home in the central city of Bnei Brak on September 22, 2020. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

JTA — Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the top Haredi rabbinical authorities in Israel, and his family have received threats from anti-vaxxers after he came out in support of vaccinating children ages 5-11 to protect against the coronavirus.

The threats have been communicated in phone calls, emails and letters, according to a report by Ynet. Some have even tried to break into Kanievsky’s home, the rabbi’s head of security told the news site. Security around the home and surrounding the rabbi when he attends events has been increased.

“Some people are trying to intimidate the ‘prince of Torah’ and his family to change his decision regarding vaccines, but of course he is of the opinion that it is necessary to get vaccinated,” Meir Gross, Kanievsky’s head of security, told Ynet, using the rabbi’s honorific.

Kanievsky met with officials from the Health Ministry on Nov. 25 and was asked to offer his support for the country’s child vaccination campaign. Due to the higher birth rates in the Haredi community, a large portion of Israeli children ages 5-11 are ultra-Orthodox.

At the meeting, Kanievsky gave his support for the vaccine drive and said all children ages 5 and up should receive the coronavirus vaccine. Kanievsky had previously given his support for vaccination of children ages 12 and up over the summer when Israel began administering the vaccine to that age group.

Though Kanievsky has consistently come out in favor of the vaccines, his varying directives to Israel’s Haredi school system during the height of the pandemic made him a polarizing figure. At times, Kanievsky said the yeshivas should not close even as government officials ordered all schools shut to slow the spread of the virus.

Children aged 5-11 receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center in Safed, northern Israel, December 3, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

According to Ynet, Kanievsky’s grandson Yanky, who acts as a spokesman and go-between for his 93-year-old grandfather, has received threats on the street. People have reportedly yelled “You are murderers” and have accused him of having “children’s blood” on his hands. The grandson reportedly also received threats that his children would be raped.

Gross said security around Kanievsky would be tightened “to prevent the next madman or the next threat who wants to approach the rabbi.”

According to Channel 13, other senior Haredi rabbis who have spoken out in support of vaccines have received threats as well.

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