NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The trying times we are all experiencing struck first at Young Israel of New Rochelle.

It was March 3 when a congregant was diagnosed with COVID-19. Not long after, hundreds started to quarantine, and dozens eventually tested positive.

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Now, many are recovering, and determined to make a difference, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Thursday.


Shachar and Stephanie Minkove said they are happy to count their blessings. In early March they and their three kids tested positive.

During strict quarantine at home near Young Israel of New Rochelle they used online chat service Zoom to hold a birthday party, and grandpa read to the kids over FaceTime.

Now, everyone has recovered.

“Surreal, I think is probably the best answer. Look back at a month of – I don’t look at it as lost time, because in many ways there was a lot of good family time. Thank God we were so lucky,” Shachar Minkove said.

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They’re two of many Young Israel congregants now trying to help others. For example, recovered COVID-19 patients are giving blood samples to experts from the Montefiore Health System and the Children’s Health Fund.

“We know that their blood is going to be rich in protective antibodies, so we want to use their blood to possibly treat patients who have severe COVID,” Dr. Johanna Daily said. “And at Montefiore Medical Center we’re actually going to run a clinical trial to see if it actually works, to provide evidence.”

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Quietly waiting his turn to give blood was Young Israel Rabbi Reuven Fink. He declined an on-camera interview, but told Aiello his bout with COVID-19 was relatively mild.

There are those who believe when the history of this pandemic is written, Rabbi Fink will be viewed as a hero. On March 4, he told his congregation strict quarantine was a “sacred obligation,” and closed the synagogue.

His actions helped slow the spread of the disease.

“They were not easy decisions, to tell people to stay home from the synagogue, to tell people not to come out. He made some really brave calls,” Shachar Minkove said.

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On the backside of this grave challenge, the Young Israel community may end up stronger than ever.