Official Jewish COVID-19 Death Toll: 2,200, Excluding North America, Former Soviet Bloc

'In all past crises it was the Jewish world which came forward to support and assist the state of Israel, and now it’s time to do that in reverse,' says Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog

Judy Maltz
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Jewish Agency head Isaac Herzog addresses the audience at the Kibbutz Movement conference on February 2, 2020.
Jewish Agency head Isaac Herzog addresses the audience at the Kibbutz Movement conference on February 2, 2020. Credit: Dana Bar-On
Judy Maltz

An estimated 2,200 Jews around the world – outside North America and the former Soviet bloc countries – have died from the coronavirus, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog reported on Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference conducted over Zoom and attended by leaders of Jewish communities from around the world, Herzog said that although he could not confirm any numbers for North America or the former Soviet bloc countries, “We can assume all in all that there were thousands of Jews who unfortunately passed away in the crisis.”

Figures gathered by the Jewish Agency showed that 33 Jews had died from the virus in Middle Eastern countries (predominantly Turkey), 50 from Mexico, 40 from Chile, 70 from Argentina and 100 from Brazil. 

“It is our objective to preserve, maintain, foster and protect Jewish life around the world,” said Herzog, speaking from the situation room of the Jewish Agency. “We identify damage in all aspects of life within Jewish communities. There is real danger to the continued existence of these communities, and we are operating different tools to assist them.”

The entrance to a Jewish cemetery in Casablanca, Morocco, on May 28, 2020. Twelve Jewish community members are reported to have died in the country after contracting the virus.
The entrance to a Jewish cemetery in Casablanca, Morocco, on May 28, 2020. Twelve Jewish community members are reported to have died in the country after contracting the virus.Credit: Mosa'ab Elshamy / AP

Particularly hard hit by the global pandemic, he said, were the Jewish communities of Italy, France, South Africa, Austria, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and the former Soviet Union.

At the outbreak of the crisis, the Jewish Agency, in partnership with Keren Hayesod, and the Jewish Federations of North America, set up a special $10 million loan fund to assist Jewish communities around the world running into cashflow problems because of government-mandated lockdowns. To date, he said, $9.6 million has been distributed to communities and Jewish organizations in 23 countries outside Israel and North America. The loans are interest free and repayable after four years. Herzog said that the Jewish Agency had received loan requests worth $20 million.

“The paradigm has shifted, and we do see the emergence of Israel as a central pillar in the Jewish world during this crisis,” he said. “The paradigm was always different because in all past crises it was the Jewish world which came forward to support and assist the state of Israel, and now it’s time to do that in reverse.”

Jewish leaders from Italy, France, Argentina and South Africa provided updates on how their communities had fared, noting that aid provided by the Jewish Agency and other global Jewish organization had been critical in sustaining them.

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