An influential rabbi who worked in Brooklyn has lost his battle against COVID-19.
Since March, 39-year old Rabbi Yudi Dukes had spent nearly 10 months in the hospital fighting the disease.
On Thursday, following a long struggle filled with setbacks, Dukes died. He leaves behind his wife Sarah and their six children, who range in age from 3 to 14.
"Just the thought of his ever-smiling face brings a smile to mine, and I'm sure so many others, so many thousands of people who he's impacted in a positive way," said Rabbi Motti Seligson, who was a close friend and colleague.
Rabbi Seligson says for more than two decades, he and Dukes shared a close friendship.
Seligson says even when Rabbi Dukes was approaching what would be final days of his life, his friend remained positive and kind.
"Visiting him in the hospital was extraordinary as well, where people were coming to inspire him, and to lift his spirits, and he was doing, they left inspired, with their spirits lifted," Seligson said.
The rabbi also leaves behind a legacy as the director of JNet, the Jewish Learning Network. It is part of the Lubavitch movement of Hasidic Jews based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which is known for its outreach efforts to more secular Jews.
Founded more than 15 years ago, JNet connects Jews around the world with study partners to explore Judaism's religious texts. It was part of Rabbi Dukes' mission to foster a global Jewish community.
"That's something that inspired so many," Seligson says.
Over the past few months, Dukes' wife, Sarah, has shared the ups and the many downs of her husband's health issues on social media.
After regaining consciousness from an induced coma over the summer, the rabbi faced many setbacks and he spent few days at their home on Long Island, where the family had moved after many years in Crown Heights.
Rabbi Seligson believes sharing this personal struggle on social media has helped raise awareness about the disease, while uniting people to pray and be good to one another.
"It was really beautiful and heartfelt to see that, and to see how they took this horrible struggle that they were facing, and used it for good and to inspire others," Seligson says.