Children’s author Ann D. Koffsky didn’t realize her picture book would cause so much controversy.
Koffsky, who wrote “Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor: A Story for Hanukkah” (and has authored more than 30 kids’ books), was recently surprised to see the Hanukkah book get a one-star review on Amazon. Why? Well, anti-vaxxers found her book … well, you can imagine the rest. One Amazon review called the book “utter propaganda.”
As JTA reported, the book is about “a young boy named Judah who — spoiler alert! — goes to the doctor. With cheerful illustrations by Talitha Shipman, Koffsky’s story follows Judah as he learns to channel the bravery of his Maccabee namesake and get a scary booster shot, thus protecting his little sister, Hannah, who is too young to be vaccinated. Seems innocuous enough.
Plus, the point of books, and publishing in general is to show a particular point-of-view (which you may or may not agree with) so long as it doesn’t perpetuate dangerous ideas (such as racism). Though some people disagree, getting vaccinated is well accepted and advised by the vast majority of healthcare professionals (the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, and on and on).
Some vaccine-opponents have also attacked Koffsky on her Instagram account, with comments like: “You’ll be held responsible for all the damages these vaccines caused to innocent children as a result of your book.”
Vicki Weber, a partner at Behrman House, the publisher that released the book, told JTA: “We didn’t do this in order to run into a debate. We like to use Jewish life and Jewish views to tell stories that are different, and we thought this was a really interesting way to show courage in a small child.”
Koffsky is standing behind the book — and also added that she’s not surprised to hear about the vicious attacks:
I’m sure there are people who have thoughtfully considered that vaccinations are not for their children for some reason, and I disagree with them and I don’t think the science supports them. Those are not the people who posted reviews.
Interestingly, Koffsky, a mom of three herself, was inspired to write the book because some Jewish day school parents have been opting out of vaccinations on religious grounds, telling JTA:
It’s one thing to say you don’t want to vaccinate your kids because you have insane beliefs. But to say “and I believe this way because of the Torah” just drove me crazy. I was really angry because I felt it was such a distortion of Jewish values.
While each family has to make their own decision regarding vaccines, the consequences of not doing so are real. For instance, there was a measles outbreak in Los Angeles earlier this year centered in the Orthodox Jewish community.
Watch the trailer for the book below: