Three relatives of a Moroccan-born Israeli politician are among the dead.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the officials reported that 13 members of the Moroccan Jewish community in Casablanca died of complications from the virus this week.
Approximately 1,500 to 2,000 Jews currently live in Morocco, yet account for 13 of the country’s 126 COVID-19 deaths.
The 10.3% share is disproportionately large, considering Morocco has a total population of 36 million.
The Israeli officials did not detail the number of Moroccan Jews who are infected with COVID-19, have been hospitalized, or have recovered.
The pandemic likely began its spread in the community after hundreds of French guests carrying the virus attended a wedding in Agadir in early March. Some wedding guests contracted the virus and then brought it to Casablanca while participating in Purim gatherings and celebrations on March 9 and 10.
Moroccan-born Israeli Labor Party leader Amir Peretz announced in late March that two of his relatives were among the dead.
Ari Peretz, a 52-year-old businessman, died in Casablanca along with his mother Simone.
Ari reportedly attended the wedding in Agadir with Jewish businessman Michel Tourgeman, who also died of COVID-19 in Morocco.
“In the Jewish community, they told of his contribution and the aid he gave to disadvantaged populations, Jews and Arabs,” Israel’s Channel 12 news quoted Peretz as saying. “Even the heads of the state and representatives of the royal court called me to express their sorrow.”
At the beginning of April, a third relative of the Labor leader, Emil Peretz, succumbed to the virus.
The latest Jewish victims of COVID-19 in Morocco include Rabbi Sholom Eidelman, according to Haaretz.
Eidelman, 83, was the emissary of the Orthodox outreach movement in Casablanca and had lived in Morocco for more than 50 years. He ran a kollel, a full-time Jewish learning institution for adults, where he trained generations of rabbis and kosher butchers.
Eidelman’s kollel students included Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.
COVID-19 in the Jewish community
The novel coronavirus pandemic appears to be disproportionately affecting Jews, who account for only 0.18% of the world population.
In addition to Morocco’s tragedy, Jewish communities in the Netherlands, France, the UK, and New York City have also reported heavy human losses due to the virus.
In Israel, Orthodox Jewish communities appear to be some of the hardest-hit.
In early April, the virus rapidly spread in ultra-Orthodox Israeli cities such as Bnei Brak, Mea Shearim, and Kiryat Yearim. The Israeli government responded by deploying police officers and SWAT teams to the neighborhoods to enforce containment measures.
Israel counts 11,586 cases of the virus and 116 deaths as of April 14. Israeli health officials are expecting a surge in coronavirus-related deaths in the next 10 days as favorable weather conditions and holidays have recently prompted residents to venture outdoors despite the nationwide lockdown.