The Orthodox Jew Who Developed the Cholera and Bubonic Plague Vaccines

April 7 2022

Mordechai Wolff Haffkine was born in 1860 in what is now Ukraine; as a youth, he founded the Jewish League for Self-Defense in Odessa and was injured while defending a Jewish home during the Odessa pogrom of 1881. As Saul Jay Singer documents, Haffkine was mentored by Louis Pasteur and almost singlehandedly developed the vaccines for both cholera and bubonic plague—often at great personal cost. He encountered significant anti-Semitism among the British and European officials and scientists with whom he worked, and became embroiled in what is now known as “the Little Dreyfus Affair.”

Haffkine had many enemies, including envious and resentful “establishment” scientists and the British colonial bureaucracy, particularly the British officers who comprised most of the staff at his laboratory, who were all unhappy about a Russian Jew heading the operation. Sham, but nonetheless damaging, reports began to circulate, including rumors that he was a Russian secret agent and an enemy of the British colonial rule and reports that he had produced the [cholera] vaccine with pig flesh, an anathema to both Hindus and Muslims.

His antagonists soon succeeded in finding a way to ruin him when, during a mass outdoor inoculation in the Punjabi village of Malkowal on October 30, 1902, nineteen villagers died from tetanus. It was quickly determined that the cause of the deaths was the failure of an Indian assistant to follow Haffkine’s established sterilization and sanitation procedures after he dropped a forceps that he was using to open the vaccine bottles, and that all the deaths were from vaccines administered from this single bottle; all other subjects who had been inoculated that day were thriving.

Nonetheless, a kangaroo Indian Commission of Inquiry was convened to investigate the matter and determined that the bottle of vaccine had been contaminated in his lab and that he was responsible. Relieved of his title and position, he was sent back to England in ignominy.

When the Indian government finally released its full inquiry in 1906—four years later—much of the scientific community came to his support and, on July 29, 1907, the London Times published a letter signed by ten internationally renowned microbiologists. . . . The letter cited not only the injustice of wrongfully accusing one of mankind’s and India’s “greatest benefactors,” but it also warned about the adverse repercussions that would arise out of false information eroding the public trust in vaccines—a warning that has particular resonance today.

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Read more at Jewish Press

More about: Anti-Semitism, India, Jewish history, Medicine, Orthodoxy

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism