North Country hotel beloved by Orthodox Jews from N.Y. says it has no connection to group’s anti-vaccine movement

  • The Arlington Hotel in Bethlehem, N.H., says it has no connection to an anti-vaccine rally on May 13 that gave away a weekend at the hotel. Courtesy

  • A group of Orthodox Jews from New York advertised a raffle for a weekend stay at the Arlington Hotel in Bethlehem, N.H., in return for a donation to anti-vaccination causes. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 5/18/2019 11:14:03 PM

A luxury kosher hotel in Bethlehem, N.H., that has long been a vacation spot for the New York Jewish community is distancing itself from an anti-vaccine movement, saying it was shocked to be prominently featured on advertising for a recent rally of vaccination opponents.

“We are not affiliated with them and do not endorse them at all,” Blima Weisz, head of marketing and sales for the Arlington Hotel, said. “We were not informed of this ... we didn’t donate it.”

Posters for a May 13 “Vaccines Symposium” in Monsey, N.Y., which featured several notable members of the anti-vaccine movement, announced that “For a $20 Donation, Enter Raffle for Weekend at Arlington Hotel.”

Weisz emphasized that the family-owned hotel had no connection to the offer. “It was a private donor,” she said. She said the Arlington Hotel tried to talk to the organizers of the rally when they learned of the offer as posters were being distributed, but were unable to contact them.

News reports say the May 13 rally was attended by several hundred members of ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of Brooklyn and neighboring Rockland County, N.Y., where an outbreak of measles has led to a health emergency. The rally featured long-disproved claims about vaccines being unsafe or ineffective, inaccurate statements about measles and other diseases, and even conspiracy claims that vaccine requirements were targeting Jews, according to reports.

An outbreak of measles among some Orthodox Jewish groups in New York has gotten so severe that the city ordered mandatory vaccinations in some areas.

Weisz described the anti-vaccination movement as a minor part of the Hasidic community of Orthodox Judaism.

“It is a minority of the group, maybe 7% or less. They’re just very, very loud. They’re very small, but very loud,” she said, adding, “I think 7% is even too much.”

The Arlington Hotel, on the edge of the White Mountains next to Littleton, has been a gathering spot for members of the Hasidic community seeking relief from the heat of New York for a century and a half.

The hotel dates back to the 1860s when newly built railroads were creating a boom for North Country summer getaways. Many of New Hampshire’s hotels at the time discouraged Jewish guests and the Arlington thrived as an alternative, basking in the reputation of Bethlehem as a place which is free of allergies and pollen; the town is home to the National Hay Fever Relief Association.

The hotel’s connection to New York expanded in the 1920s. As the story goes, members of an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Brooklyn drove up to the Arlington because it was kosher and were so taken with its food and the surroundings that they made it an annual tradition for summer visits from others.

An indication of how well-known it has become in the Hasidic community can be seen on the poster for the May 13 event, which felt no need to explain where the Arlington Hotel is.

The old seasonal hotel was replaced three years ago with a 65-room hotel described on one travel site as “the United States’ first-ever year-round strictly kosher luxury hotel.”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)



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