By: Aryeh Savir
Israel is reaching out to the Jews of the Diaspora and has initiated a roundtable of global and regional Jewish organizations to assess the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on Jewish communities and prepare a plan for their rehabilitation.
The conference was initiated by Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog and Minister of Diaspora Affairs Tzipi Hotovely.
Herzog and Hotovely have called upon Jewish organizations worldwide that deal with communal and welfare-related matters to join the roundtable. The forum plans to convene online for the first time on May 26 and identify issues requiring a systemic response.
The forum will also discuss preparations for a possible second wave of a COVID-19 outbreak and identify new opportunities, initiatives and communal structures, as well as ways to help redesign communities.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been many reports of the damage it has caused to Jewish communities around the world, and the significant number of people who have died. According to data collected by The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and The Jewish Agency for Israel, the number of people who have died in Jewish communities worldwide is in the thousands, and in many areas, Jewish institutions are completely paralyzed or in the process of collapse.
At least 1,300 Jews have died in France, including community several leaders. Leaders and figures in the Jewish communities in the United Kingdom have died as well as at least 366 community members.
In the US, Health Department statistics show that the areas in New York with the highest coronavirus infection rates are the Hasidic neighborhoods of Borough Park, Williamsburg and Crown Heights. Hundreds have died there.
Last month, the Jewish Agency for Israel, together with Keren Hayesod and Jewish Federations of North America, launched a $10 million loan fund to help Jewish communities impacted by the virus. Dozens of applications have been received from more than 15 countries, and the Jewish Agency is now seeking additional donations toward expanding the fund.
The roundtable is expected to convene every two weeks until there’s a global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and will be made up of non-governmental organizations that focus primarily on community and social welfare.