Why Jews may be at more risk of virus, and why they may not
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Analysis

Why Jews may be at more risk of virus, and why they may not

Jonathan Boyd of the JPR breaks down the risks to the community from Covid-19, in wake of news that almost 5 percent of UK deaths are Jews.

Sanitising the synagogue at the Moscow Jewish Community Center. Russia's Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar has ordered to close the synagogue at the Moscow. (Vladimir Gerdo/TASS)
Sanitising the synagogue at the Moscow Jewish Community Center. Russia's Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar has ordered to close the synagogue at the Moscow. (Vladimir Gerdo/TASS)

Two things about COVID-19 appear to be very clear: the elderly at more at risk than the young, and those with underlying health conditions are more at risk than the otherwise healthy.

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. 21% of us are aged 65 and above, compared to a national average of 16.4%. So based on our age profile, Jews appear to be collectively more at risk than most others.

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On the other hand, Jews are relatively healthy. 5% have bad or very bad health compared to a national average of 5.6%. That’s not an insignificant difference, particularly bearing in mind our age profile, and it’s because Jews, in general, have a wealthier and better educated socio-economic profile than average, and are thus less likely to adopt unhealthy habits and behaviours.

But the primary danger to Jews, like everyone else, lies in irresponsible actions. The temptation to convene, for halachic reasons and with Pesach pending, is perhaps stronger among Jews than others. We have to strongly resist this whilst finding creative ways to maintain the sense of community upon which Jewish collective life depends.

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