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In a religious N.Y. community, an unprecedented response to measles puts trust in government to the test

After a N.Y. county took unprecedented steps to halt its measles outbreak, its Orthodox community worries the move could exacerbate a fractured relationship with local government.

NEW SQUARE, N.Y. — It began with a voyage from the Holy Land.

The visitors arrived from Israel in October at the end of Sukkot, a Jewish holiday during which religious congregations gather for meals, prayer, and dance. They brought with them, inadvertently, a case of measles. One exploded into dozens, and over the past six months, health workers have tracked 156 individuals who contracted the disease — the “vast majority,” officials say, impacting the tight-knit community of at least 50,000 Orthodox Jews here.

Facing an outbreak that is now among the largest in the country — and the focus of newfound concerns about of the measles — the Rockland County executive this week took a step seemingly without precedent in the United States. Beginning Wednesday, all unvaccinated children were , including schools and synagogues, as part of a 30-day state of emergency. Parents found to have violated the directive could be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines or jail time.

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