Coronavirus: 2,200 Jewish victims in Diaspora excluding US and FSU – JAFI

The Jewish Agency provided almost $10 million in interest-free loans to Jewish organizations in 23 countries, Chairman Isaac Herzog said in a briefing with community leaders.

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog is seen remotely delivering a briefing. (photo credit: COURTESY OF THE JEWISH AGENCY)
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog is seen remotely delivering a briefing.
The coronavirus has claimed the lives of at least 2,200 Jews in the Diaspora, without counting the United States and the former Soviet Union, which are home to the biggest Jewish populations after Israel, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog announced during a briefing with leaders from several communities on Wednesday.
Herzog highlighted that since the beginning of the pandemic the organization has seen the coronavirus crisis as a “real danger” threatening the existence of Jewish communities around the world and decided to act to offer its support on several levels.
“There is room to say that the paradigm has shifted. We see the emergence of Israel as a central pillar for the Jewish world in crisis,” he said. “In the past, it was the Jewish world coming forward to support and assist Israel during crises.”
One of the crucial aspects of the support that the Jewish Agency offered was providing funds to guarantee the communities’ cash flow as countries entered lockdowns and economies suddenly crashed, Herzog further explained.
For this purpose, $9.6 million in interest-free loans was provided to Jewish organizations in 23 countries through the dedicated fund established by the agency and its partners, United Israel Appeal and Jewish Federations of North America, in April. Requests have so far been presented for double the amount. All the recipients are located outside North America.
A dramatic picture of the situation around the world was offered by the Jewish leaders who took part in the briefing. The leaders who participated were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (Argentina), Noemi Di Segni, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Joël Mergui, president of the Israelite Central Consistory of France, and Avrom Krengel, honorary president of the South Africa Zionist Federation.
All leaders highlighted how the coronavirus outbreak forced centers of Jewish life to shut down and wrecked economies, and communities had to step up to provide for the spiritual, psychological and often material needs of their members.
“We are a resilient people, but the situation is hard here. We have been in lockdown for four months,” said Bergman. “We expect that the economic situation will be even worse when the lockdown ends. We were grateful to receive funds to support our formal and informal education.”
“In the past few months, we have done a lot to ensure that people did not feel alone at home, and Italian Jews have felt it, but the crisis is also having a very negative impact,” Di Segni pointed out. “Many people have lost their jobs and are unable to support our communities as before. Therefore, communities do not have the resources to provide the services they usually offer. Our schools are especially vulnerable.”
In France, Mergui explained, in the toughest time ahead of and during Passover, his organization had to assist and provide supplies to thousands of people isolated all over the country without access to kosher food for the holidays, as well as to Jewish patients hospitalized and completely by themselves.
“Now we have to do everything to make sure that Jewish life can continue, while nobody knows what is going to happen during the High Holy Days,” he pointed out.
In South Africa, even before the coronavirus outbreak, Jewish communities could not count on the government to provide services such as welfare, education and security, and therefore had to supply the services themselves, said Krengel.
“The loans from the Jewish Agency have been a lifeline for us,” he explained, adding that South Africans also benefited from other initiatives provided, such as the advice of Israeli experts on how to handle the problems related to the pandemic.
Indeed, in the past few months, regular meetings and webinars to share expertise and best practices have been organized by the agency.
In the briefing, the organization also unveiled a project to facilitate the access to this kind of services – the application J-Ready, offering tool kits, expert consultation, webinars and more.