Coronavirus takes heavy toll on Jewish communities worldwide

The COVID-19 virus has infected prominent Jewish leaders in America, Europe and Israel, and some have succumbed to the pandemic.

By Benjamin Kerstein, The Algemeiner

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a heavy toll on prominent Jewish leaders, with several dying of the disease and others seriously ill.

The head of Israel’s United Hatzalah emergency service, Eli Beer, was placed on a ventilator and sedated on Friday. The group said in a statement that he’s expected to make a slow but full recovery, though he will continue to be sedated for up to two weeks.

In a video message issued just before his intubation, Beer said, “I need you to keep davening [praying], keep doing mitzvahs, it’s very important.”

He urged those watching to “make sure that people’s lives are saved and all their needs will be met through your support.”

The South Florida NBC affiliate Channel 6 reported that Rabbi Sholom Lipskar of the Shul of Bal Harbour, one of Florida’s largest synagogues, and founder of the Aleph Institute, which serves prisoners, U.S. military personnel and other isolated communities, tested presumptive positive for the virus, according to a statement issued Sunday.

His symptoms are considered mild and he is expected to make a full recovery.

In a video message on Instagram Friday, Rabbi Lipskar thanked people for their messages of support, as well as the hospital staff.

“Almighty God will definitely have a positive response to our prayers and good wishes,” he said, and asked supporters to recite Psalms.

According to Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, leading Satmar Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum, head of the Kiryas Joel community in New York, was diagnosed with coronavirus on Friday. He is believed to have been infected by an assistant.

He is currently in good condition with mild symptoms of the disease.

Over the weekend, André Touboul, one of France’s leading Chabad figures, died after being stricken with the virus, the UK’s  Jewish Chronicle reported.

Due to Health Ministry directives, Touboul was buried without proper Jewish funerary rituals.

His family released a statement to the French-Chasidic publication Hassidout, asking mourners to stay in isolation and “preserve the health of everyone.”

“We understand that his former students, his friends … would like to honor him, but it is now essential to comply with the directives,” they added.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo commented, “It is with great sadness that I learn of the death of André Touboul. I think of his kindness and his professionalism. All my support and my affection to his family, to his friends and to the school community.”

On Feb. 15, the former leader of the Jewish community of Milan, Michele Sciama, died of coronavirus.

The Italian-Jewish website Moked wrote that Sciama was born in Cairo and studied in London and Milan, where he eventually settled. He was heavily involved in collecting testimonies from Jews forced out of the Arab world following World War II and remained close to the Egyptian Jewish community.