On Saturday, The Times of Israel reported that Camp Hikon, a planned Orthodox Jewish summer camp in upstate New York, has stated its plans to bar vaccinated children or counselors from the facility — and that their website is laden with conspiracy theories and misinformation about COVID-19.
"Advertisements for Camp Hikon, planned for upstate New York, appeared on email listservs popular in the Orthodox Jewish community just days after a private school in Miami made news for discouraging teachers from getting the vaccine and telling children they were not to have contact with vaccinated people," reported Shira Hanau. "The camp's announcement also comes as posters encouraging people not to get the COVID-19 vaccines appeared in Midwood, Brooklyn, the Orthodox neighborhood where one member of the founding team runs a natural foods store."
According to the report, the camp is a project of Brooklyn "health coach" Naftali Schwartz, who has "no formal training in medicine or public health."
"Drawing on a debunked theory spread by the anti-vaccination movement, the camp's website cites the 'experimental nature' of the COVID-19 vaccines," said the report. "According to the false theory, living in close quarters with vaccinated people could 'enhance' the spread of the coronavirus. The website refers readers to a site called NutriTruth which claims vaccines are a 'biological weapon,' and to a livestreamed discussion between several notable anti-vaxxers."
As of Saturday, no families have yet signed up their children for Camp Hikon.
Conservative religious groups have drawn national attention for their distrust of vaccines, as the effort to immunize the population from the coronavirus pandemic has revved up. Some right-wing religious leaders have even denied the existence of the pandemic itself. In evangelical circles, televangelist John Hagee proclaimed that "Jesus is the vaccine" — a claim that was roundly mocked after it was revealed he got the vaccine himself.