Mumbai’s Jewish community among those struck by ferocious COVID-19 wave
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Mumbai’s Jewish community among those struck by ferocious COVID-19 wave

Fifteen members of the city's historic community have died as India grapples with a second coronavirus wave

Michael Daventry is foreign editor of Jewish News

People wearing protective face masks wait to receive a vaccine at a centre in Mumbai (Photo: REUTERS/Niharika Kulkarni)
People wearing protective face masks wait to receive a vaccine at a centre in Mumbai (Photo: REUTERS/Niharika Kulkarni)

India’s ferocious second wave of COVID-19 has also affected Mumbai’s Jewish community and claimed the life of its most recent victim on Friday.

Ralphy Jirad, a prominent leader in the city’s small but longstanding Jewish population, said 15 members of the city’s community had succumbed to the virus.

There are estimated to be around 4,000 Jewish people still living in the western Indian metropolis, many of them in more developed neighbourhoods.

“We all are facing shortages of resources including oxygen, vaccination, hospital beds, manpower, doctors, everything,” Jirad told Jewish News.

“There are no prayers being held inside the synagogue, so we keep those activities much more in lockdown conditions, as per the guidelines of the government and the authorities.”

He said the supply issues were exacerbating an already dire situation and that the most recent Jewish fatality on Friday may have been avoided had the situation been different.

Mumbai Jewish community member Ralphy Jhirad pictured in the city’s Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue (Photo: Creative Commons)

“Even one death is a big loss because this person would have survived if the situation would have not been so critical due to this infectious virus which is also changing its mutation cycle,” he said.

“Bombay has a population of nearly 22 million plus people, so the high density of the population per square kilometres is one of the challenging factors because [people] cannot, even if they intend to, keep their social distance of minimum six feet.”

Overseas donors are among those scrambling to provide aid to India’s hospitals and healthcare workers as they battle a devastating wave of the virus.

This week the Israeli humanitarian group IsraAID said it would send a shipment of equipment including oxygen concentrators.

It also announced a series of self-care programmes for frontline workers suffering from devastating secondary effects of the pandemic, including a growing mental health crisis.

Jirad urged people in Britain to learn from India’s experience, where the first wave was relatively small, that they should not be “taking things for granted.”

“Try to take all precautions, all guidelines and comply to them,” he said, “because even getting vaccination doesn’t protect you, unfortunately, completely.”

Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”

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