A prominent Jewish organization is cutting ties with a longtime Massachusetts rabbi for actively promoting anti-vaccine views and strident opposition to public health efforts to rein in the coronavirus pandemic.
Central Massachusetts Chabad said Thursday it dismissed Rabbi Michoel Green as a representative of the organization, which oversees Jewish community centers in the region, on Jan. 27.
Green has run the Chabad house in Westborough, which is a suburb of Worcester, New England's second-largest city, for nearly 20 years.
Rabbi Mendel Fogelman, director of the Central Massachusetts Chabad, said in a statement that Green has been warned multiple times that his activities, statements and other personal pursuits are "contrary to the organization's mission" of providing meaningful ways for Jews to learn about and celebrate their heritage.
"Some of his public pronouncements were extremely reckless and potentially dangerous, and he has repeatedly been hostile and offensive to those who did not agree with him," Fogelman said. "Our organization is about lovingly reaching out to every Jew."
In a lengthy statement to supporters Thursday, Green called the decision "ill-advised" and expected it would be reversed.
He stressed his center will continue to operate even though the Chabad Lubavitch movement has terminated his status and removed his center from its database of recognized Chabad houses.
Green said his center is incorporated as an independent, nonprofit house of worship and doesn't receive funding from any Chabad organization.
"They did not `fire' me from my position of rabbi and director of Chabad of Westboro, nor do they have any jurisdiction over our shul altogether," he said in part. "Our shul will continue to serve our community as we have faithfully for nearly two decades."
Green, who describes himself on Facebook as "not just anti-vax" but "consistently anti-pharma," has been highly critical of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
He's claimed the vaccines are "experimental injections" that could lead to "death, lifelong injury and infertility." In fact, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines result in sterilization. The vaccines approved for use in the U.S. have gone through large trials and intense scrutiny with thousands of people having received one or both shots at this point.
Green has also been critical of basic virus safety guidelines such as wearing a face mask in public. In one post, he encourages people to "take off the mask. Slow the spread of tyranny." That's also inaccurate - the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks are a simple but highly effective way to slow the spread of the disease.
In a follow-up statement, Green stood by his prior comments on the vaccine and virus safety.
"This is not about me personally, but about censorship, suppression of dissent, and kowtowing to medical tyranny," he said in part. "If your doctor or rabbi pressures you to get this experimental injection, find a new doctor or rabbi."
Some Orthodox Jewish communities in the New York City-area have bristled at government efforts to slow the pandemic, which has hit their enclaves particularly hard.
Some Jewish leaders complain the measures are discriminatory, while others have urged their faithful to heed social distancing and other public health rules.
An order by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo temporarily limiting the size of religious gatherings in certain coronavirus hot spots this past fall prompted protests and legal challenges in Brooklyn and other heavily Orthodox Jewish areas of the state.