Orthodox Jews maintain social distancing in Brooklyn, NY
Orthodox Jews maintain social distancing in Brooklyn, NY
Photo: AP
Orthodox Jews maintain social distancing in Brooklyn, NY

Jews the world over among hardest hit by coronavirus

The tendency of Jews to congregate in large groups, crowded houses of worship and a resistance to comply with authorities' directives contributes to the alarming numbers of coronavirus cases and fatalities as a result

Ynet |
Updated: 03.30.20 , 11:53
Ultra-Orthodox communities in New York are reporting a catastrophe. Due to the makeup of these communities that are fragmented into different congregations, it is difficult to confirm the real number of fatalities as a result of coronavirus, but it is believed to be high.
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Orthodox Jews maintain social distancing in Brooklyn, NY
Orthodox Jews maintain social distancing in Brooklyn, NY
Orthodox Jews maintain social distancing in Brooklyn, NY
(Photo: AP)
Haredi WhatsApp groups reported six people had died over Shabbat including a 42-year-old man from Boro Park.
Video of him dancing at a Purim celebration just three weeks ago was released.
A 39-year-old bus driver has also died, and the local press is reporting that many members of these communities are seriously ill with the virus.
At least 17 funerals were conducted Friday for the Hassidic community at Boro Park, six times the normal number.
Local Chevra Kadisha reached out for help saying: "We are flooded and are in need of drivers and cars."
The Jewish communities in New York, that are at the center of the outbreak, are reporting thousands of cases of coronavirus among their members.
Almost every Haredi home has at least one family member sick with the virus with community celebrations and crowded synagogues seen as accelerators of the spread.
The virus was first detected in a New Rochelle synagogue north of Manhattan with a surge in cases now reported in Boro Park and Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
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בית כנסת ישראל הצעיר בניו רושל
בית כנסת ישראל הצעיר בניו רושל
New Rochelle synagogue remains closed
(Photo: Courtesy of Synagogue)
Orthodox Jews make up 13% of all confirmed cases in New York, as of last week with authorities attempting to enforce strict quarantine-at-home restrictions after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the closure of all synagogues, but the more extreme groups are still refusing to comply.
Los Angeles is also experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases. Enforcement of restrictions there are also ineffective among the ultra-Orthodox.
Most congregations did close their synagogues, and many began conducting services online, but Edat Yeshorun, in North Hollywood persisted in keeping their doors open and only after rumors appeared about nine confirmed cases among worshipers did authorities move to close the place down. The local rabbi denied there were any coronavirus cases among his flock.
Not only orthodox Jews are in danger of contracting the virus. Jews are the minority most entrenched in American society and are therefore more likely to be in intimate contact with those infected.
Jews are also seen to be prone to gather in family clusters, further increasing the risk of infection.
Jewish communities have begun laying their staff off because of the economic ramifications of the pandemic fueling fears that many of America's Jews will lose their health insurance.
In France, the Orthodox Jewish community is also suffering great losses including senior religious figures who have died from coronavirus.
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הלוויה לחולה קורונה צרפת
הלוויה לחולה קורונה צרפת
A Paris funeral
(Photo: Reuters)
The fatalities constitute a much larger percentage of all cases than their size in the general population. Head of the Jewish congregations in France, Robert Ejnes said all synagogues and community centers have now been closed to contain the spread as members are urged to remain homebound.
In the hardest-hit community of Strasburg, the majority of its members are already reported to have become ill.
In the UK the numbers are also surpassing Jews presence in the general population though ultra-Orthodox communities persist in ignoring government restrictions.
A reported 5% of all fatalities in the U.K. are Jews, though they constitute only 0.3% of British citizens.
In ravaged Italy, only six Milanese Jews have died though two seriously ill cases are reported out of Rome.
The relatively low number of fatalities among Italy's Jews in credited to their demonstrated discipline in following government directives.
In Belgium, home to another large ultra-Orthodox community, a staggering 85% is expected to contract coronavirus and approximately one fifth of the 17,000-strong community to require hospitalization, with up to 550 expected to perish from the disease.

First published: 11:52 , 03.30.20
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