Lost in translation: Rockland measles doorhangers include botched Yiddish text

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Thousands of doorhangers written in Yiddish and English and distributed in Rockland County about the measles outbreak may have created some mistrust in the Hasidic community.

The New York State Department of Health created the ads back in November, printed them in Jewish magazines and distributed 45,000 doorhangers for homes in Monsey, New Square and Spring Valley.

Hasidic spokesperson Yossi Gestetner says the Yiddish words just don't make sense.

“It seems to be ‘speak with your health worry food person,’” he says.

The state Department of Health says it used a licensed translation service to create the ads. It took a few weeks before the state realized there were so many linguistic mistakes.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health refused to say whether the state was at fault.

“It's a butcher job,” says Gestetner. “When you read it, you understand that they are talking about the measles and vaccines, and not about vacations and airplanes, but it's still a mess.”

Gestetner says the state should have made sure the translation service actually spoke Yiddish.

He says the mangled doorhangers were the talk of the town when they first appeared, and that while the intention was good, the errors deepened mistrust in the state.

“You can't even translate a simple English line and you're telling me you know exactly what is or isn't good for my health? Probably some people made that calculation,” says Gestetner.

Hasidic leaders tell News 12 that overall the state is doing a good job in reaching people in the community. In Rockland County alone, nearly 22,000 people have received the measles vaccine since the outbreak began - a statistic the state says is proof its messaging works.  

A Department of Health spokesperson says the state is looking into other ways to reach the Hasidic community, including with booklets and text messages as the measles outbreak continues to grow.


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