Covid global hotspot tucked away in north London suburb

According to the Sunday Times newspaper in Stamford Hill where there is a Jewish community of about 15,000 people, the amount of those who have tested positive for COVID is around 65%. For working-age adults, it is 75%.

Important to note that women in this community may have 6 or 7 children, which is tripe the national average (we kind of need to have more kids in order to maintain the culture but this is mute in the “counter culture free speech obsessed” lot despite talking about western civilisation all the time).

To be fair the times paper did report earlier this month about this community in particular (link), I would also would like to know how many have died due to COVID in this part of London as well.

At Grodzinski’s, a kosher bakery in Stamford Hill, north London, adults and children mill around looking for the same delicacy.

Hamentashen, or “Haman’s ears”, are circular pieces of dough filled with poppy seed, sticky prune jam and raisins, named after the villain who plotted to kill the Jews of ancient Persia.

The story of their escape more than 2,000 years ago will be celebrated this week with the annual festival of Purim.

This year, however, the strictly Orthodox Jews of Stamford Hill face another mortal threat in the form of Covid-19.

Research by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has found that the community has had one of the highest reported rates of past Covid-19 infection “in the world to date”.

Across the UK, the proportion of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 stands at 7 per cent. Among Stamford Hill’s Jewish community of about 15,000 people, it is 65 per cent. For working-age adults, it is 75 per cent.

According to Dr Michael Marks, who co-authored the research, only a handful of studies have demonstrated similar rates. One of them was in Manaus, a hard-hit city on the banks of the Amazon in Brazil.

Why this strict religious community has suffered so severely is a sensitive question. It is also timely. Purim, which starts on Thursday, is a festival of rejoicing — and traditionally drink can flow freely. The 2020 Purim celebrations helped to turbocharge virus transmission.

To try to prevent a similar outcome, Chaya Spitz, who runs the Interlink Foundation, an umbrella group for Jewish charities, is sending “every household” English and Yiddish guidance to drink and feast safely. Parcels of food — Hamentashen included — that friends and neighbours give to each other should be left at the door. Reflecting on why her community has suffered so badly, Spitz pointed to factors that have blighted other ethnic groups: multi-generational households, poverty and a higher incidence of pre-existing health conditions.

Women in the strictly Orthodox community may have six or seven children, triple the national average. In crowded households, a single case of infection can spread dangerously.

It has also been difficult for public health authorities to contact the community: mobile phones, computers and TVs are used sparingly. Many people speak Yiddish as a first language and do not use secular news media.

Spitz’s mentor, a much-loved rabbi, Avrohom Pinter, died with Covid-19 last April after going from door to door to deliver health warnings. He knew that religious Jews — whose lives are set to the communal rhythm of daily worship, religious learning, weddings and bar mitzvahs — were particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Richard Ferrer, the editor of Jewish News, a community newspaper, said adapting to social distancing had been difficult for them. “They are effectively being told to stop living. For them, these things are ordained by God and the very essence of life itself,” he said.

Several prominent rabbis have worked hard to raise awareness, but Ferrer is among those who think they could have done more to enforce compliance. “If a rabbi says stop eating broccoli, people stop eating broccoli. It’s the same with lockdown,” he said.

Last June mobile phone footage emerged of police breaking up an illicit wedding in Hackney. In response the wedding band improvised a song in Yiddish telling people to relocate to a nearby hall in half an hour. Police were oblivious.

Then, in January, a 150-strong wedding took place at a girls’ school where Pinter had been principal. Ephraim Mirvis, who as chief rabbi is the leading representative of British Jewry, described it as “the most shameful desecration of all that we hold dear”.

“At a time when we are all making such great sacrifices, it amounts to a brazen abdication of the responsibility to protect life and such illegal behaviour is abhorred by the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community,” he said.

Community leaders say weddings and other events are increasingly confined to the fringe and upset the vast majority of strictly Orthodox Jews.

The past fortnight has brought good news: three wards with strictly Orthodox populations have lower infection rates than neighbouring areas, according to Hackney council data.

And last weekend, Hatzola, a Jewish medical charity, ran a vaccination drive for Jews and non-Jews alike. Some 350 people attended, including Nadhim Zahawi, the Baghdad-born vaccines minister.

Another drive was taking place last night. “We do in fact feel that most people are keen to get a vaccine as soon as possible and join the national effort to defeat Covid-19,” said Yoel Friedman, who helped run the event.