Jewish Agency for Israel chairman Isaac Herzog told Jewish leaders from abroad that the coronavirus has claimed the lives of some 2,200 Diaspora Jews, not counting those from the United States and Russia, the two countries with the largest Jewish populations after Israel.

In an online briefing on Wednesday, Herzog said the Jewish Agency has distributed some $10 million in interest-free loans to organizations in 23 countries whose Jewish communities were hit particularly hard financially as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns.

Two days earlier, he discussed other effects of the pandemic in a meeting of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, estimating that 250,000 Jews will immigrate to Israel within the next three to five years.

“This is a historic challenge that must be taken advantage of, and the government must understand the importance of the hour and prepare a national plan to absorb this wave,” he told the Committee on Monday, adding that the number of people who have contacted the Jewish Agency about aliyah from English-speaking countries has increased by 50 percent, as well as by 70 percent from French-speaking nations.

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