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No mumps here

More than 300 people in two New York Orthodox communities have contracted mumps from an outbreak that has been traced back to a Catskills summer camp. The illness has spread to parts of the Garden State but area school officials are calm, noting the outbreak has not made its way to North Jersey.

“Thankfully, we’ve had nothing,” said Joel Kirschner, administrator of Yavneh Academy in Paramus.

The school receives a state grant for nursing services that requires compliance with state immunization regulations, which mandate the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. Schools must also complete an audit containing students’ medical histories, including vaccination records.

Arthur Poleyeff, principal of general studies at Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck, said students who have not been vaccinated are not permitted to attend school.

Yavneh is also in contact with the Paramus Board of Health, which issues alerts when necessary. “We’ve not had an issue,” Kirschner said. “I would suspect the communities that have are less on top of this issue and may not get the kind of services we get.”

The Paramus Board of Health first got in touch with Ben Porat Yosef’s nurse, Dara Silverstein, in the fall. Silverstein said she is following policies set by the board, but no cases have surfaced at this point.

According to those instructions, all students’ immunization records must be up to date and all students must have the proper immunizations. Absences are also closely monitored and the board of health is to be notified if mumps are reported. Calls to the Paramus board were not returned by press time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Jewish summer camp in the Catskills, with 400 campers, was the source this summer of the largest U.S. outbreak of the mumps in several years. More than 200 people in Monsey and New Square in Rockland County have been diagnosed with the disease, while many more in Kiryas Joel in Orange County and in Brooklyn have also fallen ill.

On June 17, an 11-year-old boy came to camp from Great Britain, which has reported some 4,000 cases in an ongoing mumps outbreak. According to the CDC, the boy began to show symptoms at the camp on June 28 and 25 cases were reported among campers and staff.

Most of the campers were from Borough Park, where mumps began to spread after the campers returned home.

On Sept. 26, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services learned of eight suspected mumps cases in two Ocean County boys’ day schools. By the end of October, 40 cases had been reported. The outbreak continued to spread to Rockland and Orange counties in New York and in Quebec.

According to the 2008 National Immunization Survey, more than 90 percent of children between 19 and 35 months old in New York City, New York state, and New Jersey had received one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, while about 90 percent of teens 13 to 17 years old had received two doses.

Mumps is spread by coughing and sneezing. Common symptoms include fever, headache, and swollen salivary glands, but it can sometimes lead to more serious problems.

According to some reports, students in the affected communities had been vaccinated. One dose of mumps vaccine prevents about 80 percent of mumps, while two doses prevents about 90 percent, according to the CDC’s Website. In an outbreak, according to the Website, if most of the population is vaccinated, then some people who contract mumps are likely to have been vaccinated as well. Without vaccination, though, the outbreak would affect the entire population.

For up-to-date information on mumps, outbreaks, and vaccinations, visit www.cdc.gov.

 
 

NNJKIDS launches awareness month to raise money for day schools

In order to increase responsiveness to their goal of stemming the rise of yeshiva tuition, the committee behind North Jersey’s day-school kehilla fund has declared May NNJKIDS Month.

NNJKIDS, or Northern New Jersey Kehillot Investing in Day Schools, is the community fund of Jewish Education for Generations, a non-profit group formed last year to explore ways to lower tuition. To date, the organization has received more than 1,000 donations and distributed more than $300,000 to eight area day schools.

“What we’ve seen in the past year is a step change in the impact you can have when you tackle the issue collectively rather than individually,” said JEFG chair Sam Moed. “The effectiveness of what you can do is magnified when you pool all of the resources and tap into broader community infrastructure and capabilities.”

More than 60 area businesses — including restaurants, salons, and hardware stores — are displaying signs advertising NNJKIDS Month, and customers will have the option of adding donations to the fund to their bills. Each school is sending letters to parents encouraging participation in the fund. The schools are also promoting learn-a-thons during Shavuot for students to raise money from sponsors for the number of hours they spend learning during the holiday.

“The idea is a multi-pronged strategy to reach people wherever they are,” said Jennifer Miller, an officer of JEFG. “The community lives in the retail establishments, they live in the synagogues and respect what the rabbis promote, and of course the community lives in the day schools. We wanted to hit every constituency at every level.”

NNJKIDS has made two distributions so far, with a third planned later this month. The organization intends to hand out money quarterly to the eight elementary day schools within the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey catchment area, based on the number of students each school has from that area.

“The funds we’ve received from NNJKIDS have enabled us to keep tuition increases at a very low level for the coming year,” said Elliot Prager, principal of The Moriah School in Englewood, who said the school has scheduled a 1.9 percent increase. “It would have had to be higher.”

There are 926 students in K-8 this year, and 22 percent of Moriah’s families receive tuition assistance. The school has seen an increase in applications in the past two years, said Prager, who expects the percentage to remain about the same for next year.

Yavneh Academy in Paramus has approved a $200 increase to its $14,000 annual tuition, said the school’s executive director, Joel Kirschner. Without JEFG’s contribution, however, the school would have had to increase tuition an added $200, he said. Yavneh has received more than $100,000 from NNJKIDS to date.

“If it wasn’t for that, quite frankly, I don’t where we’d be,” Kirschner said. “People really need to get behind this effort, because this is hopefully going to change the face of education in the community.”

Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford has received less than $10,000 from the fund to date. The funds have not had a major impact on scholarship levels, said head of school Ruth Gafni, but seven families were able to receive scholarships that allowed their children to remain in the school instead of withdrawing midyear.

“How blessed we are to have people in our community willing to spend an enormous amount of time on what may save Jewish education in years to come,” she said.

Beyond the money, Gafni praised NNJKIDS for bringing the tuition crisis to the forefront and uniting the area’s Orthodox and Conservative day schools.

“The message is you’re not in it alone,” she said.

Recognizing that all the schools are in this situation together is a major part of the organization, said Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, JEFG’s rabbinic adviser and religious leader of Englewood’s Cong. Ahavath Torah.

“It’s encouraged a level of cooperation that’s really wonderful to witness,” he said. “It’s opened up lines of communication between the communities that’s beginning to extend to other areas of education as well.”

NNJKIDS leaders appeared pleased with what they have accomplished so far but also warned against complacency. The ultimate goal, they say, is to get 100 percent participation from the community.

“We’ve taken a good first step,” said Gershon Distenfeld, chair of NNJKIDS and treasurer of JEFG. “Clearly there is a lot more education that has to be done. We’re still only reaching a small percentage of our target audience, but the initial results are certainly promising.”

For more information on NNJKIDS, visit www.nnjkids.org.

 
 
 
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