The number of Jewish burials over a three-month period this spring was more than double that recorded in the same period last year, further evidence that Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Jews in the UK.
According to data collated by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the largest Jewish burial boards carried out 811 funerals in March to May this year, compared to 358 in 2019, an increase of 127%.
It said the figures suggested that the Jewish community had suffered 2.5 times as many deaths as a result of the pandemic than the non-Jewish population.
The Office for National Statistics said earlier this month that the mortality rate from Covid-19 was higher for Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs than Christians or those of no religion.
Part of the explanation was down to the “different circumstances in which members of these groups are known to live; for example, living in areas with higher levels of socio-economic deprivation and differences in ethnic makeup,” said the ONS.
However, Nick Stripe, head of life events at the ONS, added: “After adjusting for the above, Jewish males are at twice the risk of Christian males, and Jewish women are also at higher risk.”
Jewish males had a mortality rate of 187.9 deaths per 100,000, roughly twice the mortality rate among Christian males, which was 92.6 deaths per 100,000.
For Jewish females, the rate was 94.3 deaths per 100,000, compared with 54.6 deaths per 100,000 for Christian females.
Muslim males had the highest rates of death involving Covid-19, with 199 deaths per 100,000 for men of all ages and 98 deaths per 100,000 for women.
Celebrations to mark the Jewish festival of Purim, which took place in early March, are thought to have helped spread the virus in the Jewish population. Large numbers of Jews attended synagogues and celebratory events involving singing and dancing during the holiday.
Some ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, which rarely engage with media and have limited access to the internet, were slow to take heed of advice on physical distancing and self-isolation for those with symptoms.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, said on Tuesday: “The reopening of some synagogues this Shabbat will come as a relief to many of us, as some aspects of our Jewish way of life return to normal.
“But as these figures show, we have disproportionately lost loved ones, friends and family as a community. It is critical we follow government guidance and caution going forward to save lives.”