On April 16, 2021, The Phoenix published an op-ed titled, “Vaccinate Every Swattie. No Exceptions.” The piece, which argues for every Swarthmore student to be vaccinated, focuses somewhat on ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of New York which have famously suffered high COVID-19 infection rates throughout the pandemic. While it is true that ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities around the world have faced significantly higher rates of COVID-19 infections than people not in those religious communities, we feel that the wording in the piece attributes these high infection rates to these communities’ religious beliefs themselves instead of other factors, which is where we erred. We also feel that the writer of the article, who himself is Jewish, included this focus and harmful wording out of carelessness instead of nefariousness.
It was wrong of The Phoenix’s Editorial Board to allow publication of an article which solely pinpoints ultra-Orthodox Jewish people, a tiny fraction of the country’s population, as a vector of disease while ignoring other faith communities, notably white evangelical Christians, who pose a much larger risk in terms of vaccine hesitancy and outright misinformation. Additionally, the majority of ultra-Orthodox Jewish people are in favor of vaccination and most ultra-Orthodox Rabbis support vaccination. Moreover, the piece implies that ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities are “plague rats,” wording that should never have made it to print because it is reminiscent of the stereotype that Jewish people spread the bubonic plague to gentile Europeans by poisoning wells.
Though op-eds solely reflect the views of the authors and do not reflect the views of The Phoenix Editorial Board, op-eds in The Phoenix always go through several rounds of editing from both the Opinions editors and senior editorial board. The Phoenix would never knowingly publish antisemitic rhetoric, and allowing the publication of the sections of this piece that single out ultra-Orthodox communities stems from a lack of awareness from both us and the author about antisemitic stereotypes rather than abject malevolence towards Jewish people. Nevertheless, it is our ethical obligation to ensure that pieces that we publish don’t contain discriminatory rhetoric that could potentially harm marginalized communities and people. We failed to do this, and apologize wholeheartedly to everyone whom we may have harmed or alienated. We also thank the Kehilah Board for bringing these concerns to our attention.
The Phoenix Senior Editorial Board and Opinions Editors