The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is investigating claims that a city bus driver attempted to refuse service to an Orthodox Jewish man in Williamsburg last week, claiming he would infect her with the measles virus amid an outbreak of the potentially fatal illness.
“It’s very, very sad,” said Rabbi David Niederman, president of United Jewish Organization. “Let me tell you, there were other Orthodox residents on the bus, and they felt threatened by it, too.”
Niederman’s group tweeted the allegations of measles-fueled anti-Semitism at the MTA Thursday morning on behalf of an unnamed, 40-year-old Orthodox man, who claims the bus driver refused to stop for him at a B57 stop near Franklin and Flushing avenues at around 9 a.m. sometime last week.
The rabbi said the bus driver did eventually allow the man onto the bus after the vehicle got caught in traffic, but that the MTA employee covered her face with her sweater, and refused to accept the man’s transfer, while shouting “Measles! Go in!”
The incident occurred just days before Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a public health emergency on April 9 in response to the spread of the measles virus amid Orthodox Jewish residents in Williamsburg, where the vast majority of nearly 300 cases of the highly infectious disease have been discovered since October.
And Niederman claimed that the bigoted bus driver isn’t the only one who’s used the measles outbreak as an excuse for anti-Semitism, claiming Williamsburg Jews are routinely insulted for an outbreak that his organization has done everything in its power to curtail.
“There’s verbal harassment on the streets,” said the rabbi. “People shouting, ‘Jews,’ and ‘measles,’ that type of stuff. We’re working very closely with Department of Health, and we’ve been very successful. There’s been 8k more vaccinations.”
The transit authority is in touch with Niederman’s organization regarding their claims, and has launched an investigation into their allegedly delinquent driver, according to MTA Chief External Affairs Officer Max Young.
“The MTA has absolutely zero tolerance for discrimination — we’re taking this issue very seriously and investigating,” Young said.
De Blasio chimed in as well, saying his office has been in contact with the Transit Authority, while condemning the act of apparent anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitic discrimination has no place in our city,” said the mayor. “We’ve reached out to the MTA about this report and will make sure it is thoroughly investigated.”