British Jews may have died disproportionately during Covid because of close contact during communal activities like Bar Mitzvahs in the weeks before the first lockdown, new research suggests.
British Jews experienced a higher death toll than the England and Wales average during March 2020 to March 2021, according to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, driven by a surge of deaths in the first wave.
The report, released today, lends weight to a thesis that the community experienced a “Jewish penalty” in the early months of the pandemic because of the community’s sociability before lockdown.
The study, which analysed Jewish burial records, found: “Jews fared worse despite evidence from several sources which demonstrates that they generally experience relatively good health and lower mortality
“By a process of elimination, this suggests a hypothesis that the ‘Jewish penalty’ was related to a greater prevalence of coronavirus infection among Jews, and that this could be a result of earlier exposure to the virus relative to the date of national lockdown and/or to the relative sociability and cohesiveness of Jews, or both.”
Among the “supporting evidence” for the sociability thesis, found the study, was the fact that Orthodox groups appeared to be slightly more affected than Progressive which aligned with their greater religious involvement.
The ‘Jewish penalty’ also seemed to disappear in the second wave, found the study authors, “following the introduction of significant measures aimed at the prevention of the spread of infection in places of worship.”
The report also notes that Jewish people were more likely to regularly attend a communal place of worship than the population at large.
Although a Government-backed study found that two-thirds of London Charedim had Covid last year, among the highest infection rates in the world, the new research finds the community’s death toll cannot be explained by this alone, because they are a relatively small and youthful group.
The report comes after the Board of Deputies reported earlier this month that the community had not experienced any new Covid deaths in two months.
“We have taken a heavy toll from Covid but the efforts of everyone in the community means that the pandemic is under control for now,” said Board President, Marie van der Zyl.
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