Beachwood rabbi recovers from COVID and pneumonia, warns others to take virus seriously


BEACHWOOD, Ohio (WJW)– It was nearly the end of 2020 before a local Rabbi received a diagnosis he and so many try to carefully avoid.

Senior Rabbi Naphtali Burnstein of Young Israel of Greater Cleveland said the news came after a devastating blow about his ailing sister from out of state.

“We got in the call in the middle of the night my sister had passed and about 9:30, 10 o’clock in the morning I get the call you’re positive,” Rabbi Burnstein said.

Rabbi Burnstein said she did not die of COVID-19. His diagnosis came Dec. 16. More than a week later his cough, and mild fever led to an exam at the Cleveland Clinic that only revealed more troubling news.

“Said you have COVID pneumonia, that is what it’s called, your pneumonia is connected to COVID.”

He spent four days in the hospital, a place he said he’s familiar as clergy but not as a patient. Rabbi Burnstein, 63, said he does not have a serious health condition. 

Worship services are in-person, with masks and social distancing are carefully used. He said he does not know how he got the virus.

“That’s one of the gifts, the gifts of prayer,” he said. “It’s a very powerful thing. It allows you to stay connected so that you know there were times when you have to turn to prayer and pray to God.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday afternoon reported COVID-19 cases surpassed 22 million nationwide.  In the past seven days more than 23,000 people died. The CDC reports more than 550 deaths in the last seven days in Ohio.

“It’s still very dangerous times and we need to take it seriously,” Rabbi Burnstein said.

He said despite the hope surrounding the vaccine, this is no time to let guards down. The biggest lesson learned from his battle with COVID and pneumonia is, “It is all in the hands of God.”

“At the end of the day the message is, life and death, is in the hands of God.”

Rabbi Burnstein said he recovered from the virus and returned to worship services last week.

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