Rabbi at Young Israel of New Rochelle Tests Positive for Coronavirus


The rabbi of Young Israel of New Rochelle, the Modern Orthodox synagogue in Westchester shut down after a member came down with the coronavirus, has tested positive for the virus.

Rabbi Reuven Fink, spiritual leader of the New Rochelle congregation, has been in self-quarantine after being in contact with a congregant who had previously tested positive, according to a tweet today by Yeshiva University, where the rabbi teaches two undergraduate classes.

“We have reached out to his students and recommended as a precautionary measure to self-quarantine until further notice,” read the tweet, which was signed by the university president, Dr. Ari Berman.

At least one YU student is known to also have contracted the virus — the 20-year-old son of the New Rochelle resident and Young Israel member Lawrence Garbuz, a 50-year-old lawyer who works in Manhattan.

UJA-Federation in Westchester cancelled a fundraiser scheduled for Thursday, March 5, “out of an abundance of caution,” organizers said. Similarly, the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America postponed Sunday’s daylong symposium on Jewish ethics at Central Synagogue in Manhattan, citing caution and saying, “The convening would be fraught with an anxiety that would undermine our deep commitment to quality programming.”

The coronavirus crisis intensified Thursday in Israel — where 17 Israelis have the virus and tens of thousands are quarantined at home — as Lufthansa, Swiss Air and Austrian Airlines cancelled flights to and from the country. The cancellations mean that seminary and yeshiva students from the United States may not be able to go home for Passover, and their parents may not be able to go to Israel.

“Although officially the World Health Organization has not yet declared a pandemic, we do feel we are at a pandemic stage,” said Asher Shalmon, the Health Ministry’s director of international relations.

Muslim officials sterilized the Al Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and asked mosque preachers to shorten their sermons, while Israel’s chief rabbi asked devout Jews to stop kissing mezuzahs.

After seven Palestinians tested positive for coronavirus, Palestinian Authority officials have closed schools, religious and tourist sites in the West Bank for 30 days, including the Church of the Nativity. Israel has blocked the entry of Palestinians from the Bethlehem area.

Israeli humanitarian aid agency IsraAID is expanding its response to coronavirus disease in China and other countries. In the coming weeks, the non-governmental organization will launch a series of online stress management webinars for medical first responders and mental health workers in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai.

Additional target groups may include doctors from Zhuhai who have traveled to Wuhan to support the medical response at the outbreak’s city of origin and may require targeted support on their return.

In addition, IsraAID and its partners have sent two shipments of medical supplies — including facemasks, protective suits, and gloves — to Chinese hospitals currently experiencing shortages of vital protective gear.