High Jewish death rate from corona in UK has community leaders concerned

Disproportionately high Jewish death rate in UK raises concerns as community calls on members to stay home to fight the spread of the virus.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Jews in England are dying of coronavirus at a higher rate than the rest of the population, leading the country’s national organization to echo government calls and remind members of the faith to “stay home,” the Daily Mail reported Sunday.

Although Jews comprise only 0.5 percent of Britain’s population, “one in 20 of those killed by coronavirus in Britain so far are from the religion,” the report said.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews that represents 160 affiliated Jewish organizations in the United Kingdom said despite whatever reasons were behind the high death toll, Britain’s Jews should do “everything you can to follow the Government’s guidelines and stay home unless you absolutely cannot.”

Board president Marie van der Zyl said the pandemic presented challenges to the Jewish communities who “cherish festivals and socializing.”

“We are supporting the government’s message that Jews, like everyone else, must stay home and stay safe,” van der Zyl told the Daily Mail.

According to Board of Deputies figures, as of last Wednesday 25 out of 465 coronavirus victims in Britain were Jewish, accounting to 5.4 percent of the victims.

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Jewish officials including representatives of the ultra-Orthodox said their communities were abiding by government regulations to limit social contact.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis issued a special video calling on the faithful to stay at home and not go to community prayers, which require a quorum of at least 10 and are held three times a day.

He said it was more poignant for him as he himself was in the year-long mourning period for his late father and is required to say a mourner’s prayer with a quorum.

“During the next few weeks or months it’s not going to be possible for me to recite the mourner’s prayer,” Mirvis said in the video posted on Twitter. “I’ll feel absolutely devastated, but at the same time I will know that I will be fulfilling a commandment far far more important.

“It is the commandment to preserve my life and it’s the commandment for me to act responsibly to preserve the lives of others.”

Another Jewish leader questioned the statistics, saying it was important to be ‘cautious’ before drawing conclusions from the Jewish deaths.

“It’s not entirely clear how the figures were generated and whether the methods being used are consistent with national numbers,” said Jonathan Boyd, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, noting that the numbers are still very small and may be skewed because of age.

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“British Jews are old; second only to the Christian population of the UK, they have the oldest age profile of any religious group in the country,” Boyd wrote in the Times of Israel. “Twenty-one percent of us are aged 65 and above, compared to a national average of 16.4 percent. So based on our age profile, Jews appear to be collectively more at risk than most others.”

However, Boyd said, “fundamentally, it’s really too early to draw any conclusions about this. We need to wait for some time before assessing it seriously.”

On Sunday Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin sent letters wishing a speedy recovery to Prince Charles and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, both of whom were diagnosed last week with coronavirus.