Most of us are aware of the fact that last Shabbat was designated as a Project Renewal Shabbat in Teaneck. In 11 of our shuls, people who were knowledgeable or had donated kidneys spoke about their experiences.
Although we know that this topic has been actively promoted in The Jewish Link, it was not actually until we heard Rabbi Ari Sytner speak that we realized the magnitude of what actual donors have done. We were dumbfounded.
On Motzei Shabbat, surrounded by hundreds of people, we listened to story after story of the impact that donating a kidney meant to those suffering from kidney disease. In the room were many who had been donors, and each one of those people have the zechut of the actualization that they saved a person’s life. Is there anything in life that could be more gratifying?
We listened, we cried and we were overwhelmed by the amount of chesed surrounding us. In awe, we watched as people lined up to be “swabbed” to see if perhaps they have the potential of being donors. We watched our children standing on line, waiting their turn, and could feel nothing but pride. These are the lessons that we are teaching our children.
This is a community that is frequently described as affluent. Wow, we have heard, “Look at those houses.” Young couples are buying smaller houses and tearing them down and erecting what some are referring to as mansions. Those same young couples were standing on line to be swabbed. They are also attending a fundraiser for Yachad, another for Project Ezrah, another for their local school, their local shul etc., etc., etc. every other night of the week. Yes, it is expensive to live in this community. One of the greatest expenses is the cost of supporting so many of these very necessary and important institutions.
Yet, we do not hear anyone regaling each other about the amount of kindness and thoughtfulness that is also taking place here. How many children have been sat down to have a discussion with their parents about the importance of pikuach nefesh, of saving someone’s life? In this community, that discussion has obviously happened frequently, as soon as one gets a call to be a donor for whatever cause it might be. There are those who have given bone marrow, stem cells and, of course, kidneys. That is what this community should be known for.
The fact that homes might be largely built, that vacations here, there and everywhere take place frequently is irrelevant when we can proudly sit back and look at the kindness that is emanated from so many here. Those values that we are teaching our children will be embossed upon them for the rest of their lives. How much better the world would be if others would allow themselves to listen, only listen to the effects on a person’s life by being more open to the possibility of being a donor. We regret that we were not more aware of the possibilities of being kidney donors when we were younger. We grew up in the fledgling years of Jay Feinberg’s publicly sharing with the Jewish world his need for a bone marrow transplant. We believe that he opened up the minds of many to the enormous success that bone marrow transplants can be in the lives of seriously ill individuals. We are especially proud of the fact that our son Akiva was a donor to a child, donating both his marrow and later his stem cells. While he never met his recipient, he has the zechut of knowing that he actually saved someone’s life. How many of us can be blessed with such a feeling?
Although we are aware that this subject has been discussed a myriad of times, we need to repeat once again that listening to the stories of both the donors and the recipients makes us want to shout from the rooftops the importance of how this can change one’s life. Many will find out that they are not potential donors, but unless one takes the plunge and gets swabbed no one will ever know. We know from life experience that the person who donates almost gets more pleasure from his act than the person who is the recipient. We hope that we have convinced at least one person who was on the fence on this issue to take the plunge and do it. It used to be thought that only physicians had the ability to save a very sick person. Now, with the knowledge of how these transplants can change the lives of both the patient and their entire family, we really have an obligation to step up to the plate. Isn’t it the least we can do?
By Nina Glick
Nina Glick lives in Bergenfield after many years of service to the Montreal Jewish community. Nina coordinated all Yachad activities in Montreal and was a co/founder of Maison Shalom, a group home for special needs young adults. She can be reached at [email protected].