June 2020
A New Connection, A New Life

When Steve Lenowitz headed to New York in early March for an Allman Brothers tribute concert in Madison Square Garden, he didn’t figure he’d be bringing home anything but fond memories of the music of his youth.

But three days after Steve got home he began to feel ill. And after waiting a week for a COVID-19 test, it was confirmed, Steve was positive for coronavirus.

“I was really sick,” he said.

Steve spent five days in intensive care and his condition was so dire he was almost put on a respirator. And although his friends and family and rabbi couldn’t visit him in the hospital, he was more than appreciative of their prayers.


Growing up in in Mill Basin, in Brooklyn, New York, a neighborhood he described as a “little oasis,” which backed up to the water, Steve said his family was observant. His mother kept a kosher home, and his father came from a religious background.

“My father sang in a choir. I would sing with him,” he remembered. “They traveled around New York singing in different shuls, so I had that exposure.”

After his father’s untimely death when Steve was 10, the family stayed in Brooklyn, Steve went to Hebrew school and was bar mitzvahed, but the family became less observant.

“We certainly went to shul for the High Holy days and fasted,” he said of the modern Orthodox shul they attended. “We observed Passover and stuff like that. But in the spectrum of things, we weren't that religious.”

When his sister got married and moved to Washington, D.C., his mother, wanting to be near her grandchildren, moved to Rockville, Maryland. Steve, a pre-med and organic chemistry student at NYU decided to move too, transferring to American University in D.C. He eventually did his med school rotations and residency in Baltimore, becoming an OB-GYN. He stayed in the Baltimore area to be near his family, settling in Columbia with his wife and attending a Reconstructionist synagogue in Laurel, where his children attended Hebrew school and were bar mitzvahed.

But after being offered work in private practice in Bel Air, Steve started commuting to Harford County, which was a growing area. Involved with the modern Orthodox community as a youngster, he had a good impression of the Chabad community and after repeated attempts from Rabbi Kushi to get him involved in Harford Chabad, Steve relented.

“He’s like the Pied Piper,” Steve said, with a chuckle. “He was going around Bel Air, he looked up who was Jewish and he started making the rounds.”

Rabbi Kushi visited Steve’s office often, where the receptionist would tell Steve, “The rabbi was here. He wants to meet you.” And eventually, even though Steve didn’t think his level of Judaism matched with Chabad, he decided to meet with the “Pied Piper” of rabbis.

“And I really liked him,” Steve recalled. Later, after moving from Columbia to Northern Baltimore County, Steve was looking for another shul to attend.

“I met him and I liked him and I started going to Harford Chabad for the High Holy Days and other holidays, occasionally on Shabbat,” Steve said.

Steve said his involvement with Harford Chabad and Rabbi Kushi was supportive and meaningful in a way he had not experienced before in his life.

“I’d never been really close to a rabbi. Kushi is a special person,” Steve said. “I definitely connected with him, considering we’re so different. And he’s very persistent.”

Steve remembers Rabbi Kushi’s regular entreaties, “Are you coming? We need one more for minyan. Are you coming this weekend?”

“I felt like I could talk to him when things weren’t going well,” he said. “I could call him and tell him this is bothering me; I’m really sad about this. He was like a counselor to me.”

His connection with Harford Chabad and Rabbi Kushi helped with a connection when he visited his son in Long Beach, California, near Purim, soon after his sister died. Steve wanted to say yizkor and mourner’s kaddish, but didn’t know where to go.

“I knew he was from Long Beach and that's where my son was living. And he said, ‘Well, you should go to my shul where I grew up. My father built that shul,’” Steve remembered. “So me and my three sons went there to say yizkor.”

He had a similar experience during a trip to Mexico on Yom Kippur, where Rabbi Kushi directed him to friends running a Chabad center in Cancun.

“I never had that kind of connection with a rabbi, or a shul before,” Steve said of the Harford Chabad. “It’s a really cool connection. I’m going to miss it.”

He is thankful for all of the support and counsel he receives from Rabbi Kushi and the Harford Chabad, especially those prayers that helped to buoy him when he was in the hospital, close to death.

Steve’s experience surviving his battle with the coronavirus helped him take stock of his life. So Steve and his wife are moving to Fenwick Island, Delaware, just up the beach from Ocean City, where he hopes to connect with the Chabad Lubavitch – Eastern Shore.

His move was also influenced by the advice from a colleague, an infectious disease doctor.

“I watched you from afar, and you have no idea how close you were (to dying),” the doctor told Steve at his discharge from the hospital. “You need to retire and enjoy your life.”

And so he did, and so he is.