Rabbi Yehuda ‘Yudi’ Dukes dies of Covid

He spent nearly ten months in hospital before his death on Thursday


Rabbi Yehuda ‘Yudi’ Dukes, who spent months in a coma with Covid-19 and served as a beacon of hope during his near 10-month hospital stay, died on Thursday aged 39.
The American father-of-six was the managing director of Chabad Lubavitch-based Jewish learning platform JNet. He was first admitted to NYU Langone Medical Center in March 2020, where he was intubated and put on a ventilator.
His was widely considered to be one of the longest coronavirus-related hospitalisations in the United States.
Rabbi Dukes’ wife, musician and counsellor Sarah Spangenthal Dukes, documented the family’s struggle and resilience on her Facebook page. Her candid, deeply emotional posts inspired a flood of support from around the world, including a campaign that raised over $500,000 for the family and a letter from New York governor Andrew Cuomo.
On Thursday night, she wrote: “Baruch dayan haemes.
“Blessed is the true Judge. Yudi is safe. He is protected. You have carried him straight to the highest heights.
“We will see you again, Yudi. We love you.”
Chabad confirmed the news in a statement which read: “The worldwide family of Chabad Lubavitch emissaries is heartbroken by the passing of our dear, beloved colleague.
“Yudi, as he was known by all of us, fought a courageous and difficult battle since being hospitalized with Covid-19 in March.
“Our hearts go out to Sarah and their children. May Yudi’s legacy bring solace and comfort to the grieving family, colleagues and countless people who’ve been impacted by his journey.”

On the Shabbat preceding his March intubation, Rabbi Dukes recorded separate blessings for each of his six children. Mrs Spangenthal Dukes said he “struggled with every word and breath.”

He spent 158 days in the ICU before he was transferred to Rusk-NYU’s rehabilitation centre in September. Five of his six children were able to visit him and receive blessings for Rosh Hashanah, some 25 weeks after all but one had last seen their father.
In November, Mrs Spangenthal Dukes was elated to report her husband had returned home, and posted a moving video showing the rabbi embracing his children after he was wheeled out of an ambulance on a stretcher.
But their celebrations were short-lived. Rabbi Dukes was admitted to Cornell hospital the next day, where over several months he suffered multiple complications and setbacks including a hepatic haemorrhage, compression fractures, and damage to his liver. Mrs Spangenthal Dukes was told repeatedly he could only have hours to live, and often referred to his progress as a ‘miracle’.
Rabbi Dukes and his wife had been looking forward to getting married again once he was released from hospital. As Mrs Spangenthal Dukes explained in an update, they needed a new ketuba after adding “Chaim” to her husband’s Hebrew name. In December, the rabbi surprised her with a new ring to replace one she was devastated to have lost after 15 years of marriage.
The eternally positive rabbi told Chabad in August he felt he and his wife had been “picked by G-d for this special experience, and that this is how we can contribute right now.”
Even from his hospital bed, he said: “The truth is that I can do many meaningful things. I record weekly Torah messages that get sent to thousands of people.

“I know that those messages uplift others, and I know that sharing my story can inspire others to have this same perspective.

“Instead of spreading a virus, I can spread goodness.”


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