Surfside rabbi conducts virtual religious services after recovering from novel coronavirus

Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 14

Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar, of The Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside. (Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar)

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar, of The Shul of Bal Harbour, is making a steady recovery after being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in March and has resumed conducting religious services via Zoom, a spokeswoman from the University of Miami Health System confirmed to Local 10 News.

Lipskar, 73, received the results of his positive COVID-19 test on March 14 and was admitted to the intensive care unit of UHealth Tower, the flagship hospital of the University of Miami Health System, the next day.

“My initial symptom was a high fever, but because of my age I had a high risk of complications,” Lipskar said. “My wife Chani insisted that I get tested for the coronavirus, and the result came back positive a few days later.”

Because of the nature of his work, Lipskar said he is often in contact with people from around the world.

Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar and his wife, Chani. (Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar)

“While I didn’t want to go to the hospital, that decision may have saved my life,” the rabbi said. “If I had delayed, the damage to my lungs might have been irreversible.”

Following his diagnosis, Lipskar said he immediately sent an email to his congregation and the Shul was closed for cleaning.

Dr. Martin Zak, an intensivist at UHealth Tower, said Lipskar “had a severe COVID pneumonia when he was admitted.”

“We were very concerned because of his age and overall condition,” Zak said. “Our team treated him with supplemental oxygen and several medications, while closely monitoring his condition. After several rocky days, he began to improve, and when I rotated out of the ICU, I was confident he would recover.”

Lipskar spent nine days in the ICU of the hospital before heading home. He continues to recover at home, where he is sheltering in place with his wife.

The Shul remains closed at this time.

“For the first time in my life, it was just me and Chani celebrating Passover,” Lipskar said. “Normally, we have it in our community with hundreds of people. However, our grandkids have a house behind ours, so we went into the back yard and sang the songs together.”

Lipskar expressed his gratitude to the nurses, doctors and other staff members at the hospital who took care of him during his stay.

He said he is also grateful that his congregants are heeding his warnings about the virus.

“I told every person to listen to their doctors, and they took it very seriously,” he said. “As a result, we have not had any serious cases in our community.”

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Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for