Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World
By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
On Sunday, May 11, thousands of women converged at the home of Mrs. Feiga Goldberger at 172 Wilson Street for the benefit of the phenomenal organization known as Renewal. Mrs. Goldberger is married to Sender Goldberger, an outstanding community activist. The ladies came from Williamsburg, Boro Park, Flatbush, Kew Gardens, Far Rockaway, Five Towns, Monsey, Kiryas Yoel, and Lakewood, and from as far away as Florida, California, and Montreal. They all came to support the stellar accomplishments of Renewal in its lifesaving and life-giving work of facilitating kidney transplants. All participants were thoroughly inspired.
The general background of Renewal’s holy work within the Jewish community was presented here in the 5TJT January 3, 2014 Machberes column. In honor of their successful fundraising event, a timely inside look is warranted. As of this writing, Renewal has been instrumental in arranging more than 200 kidney transplants from live donors. Presently, 99,201 patients in the United States are registered and waiting for a kidney transplant. Sadly, about 12 of these patients die every day because there are not enough donors.
A kidney transplant can come from a live donor or from someone who unfortunately came to an untimely end. A kidney from a live donor is preferable and statistically of considerably greater longevity. Of last year’s 20,000 kidney transplants, 15,285 came from cadavers. The other 4,715 transplants came from live donors.
From within the potential pool of live donors, kidney donations come from blood relations and from emotionally related donors, such as a spouse, neighbors, and friends. Due to medical advancements, the expanded potential of donor relationships now includes acquaintances and even strangers, honorably titled “altruistic donors.”
Of the 147 kidney transplants that came from altruistic donors in the United States, 35 came through the efforts of Renewal, remarkably representing almost 25 percent. Even if there are 1,000,000 Orthodox Jews in the United States, Renewal’s 25% of altruistic donor kidney transplant donations from a mere 0.3% of America’s population of 315,000,000 is nothing less than astounding.
This is in line with other statistics. For example, for the past 30 years, community blood drives from within Orthodox Jewish communities have been significantly greater than any other in all of the United States. In particular, Douglas Jablon, vice president of Maimonides Medical Center in Boro Park, must be noted for super-successful blood drives.
Renewal’s contribution to life goes well beyond our simple assessment. Renewal generates transplant donors in what must be hailed as life-giving and lifesaving events. After existing solely through machine blood dialysis, transplant candidates are weakened. Their spouses and families are also extremely adversely affected. Renewal extends help in so many ways that even a short description would be unbelievable.
When a potential donor knocks on Renewal’s doors, he or she is welcomed. However, the giving of a kidney is not simply lying back and telling surgeons to go ahead. Nor is it the simple insertion of one’s hand deep into a pocket to extract $1 or $10,000 for tzedakah. If one is inclined to donate a kidney, he or she is presented with a long list of patients in extreme need. The potential donor can make a selection. However, depending on test results, the initial selection may not be suitable.
Potential donors must go through a series of medical tests to ensure that they are healthy and physically fit and that the giving of a kidney will not adversely affect their health now or in the future. In addition, potential donors must undergo a series of psychological tests, ascertaining their mental well-being as well as their mental resilience.
Needless to mention, no donor is paid for his or her organ. In addition to such indecency being improper, it is illegal. All monies donated to Renewal are used solely to pay for medical procedures and for the recovery of both donor and recipient. Renewal undertakes all family duties that both the donor and the recipient have until such time that the donor and the recipient fully recover.
The average recipient in America must wait six to eight years to receive an organ transplant. Renewal’s recipients wait a fraction of that time. Renewal aggressively identifies those within our community who need a transplant, and from the time of that identification, Renewal’s waiting time is an astoundingly short six to nine months! This was extolled at the Williamsburg event by the esteemed Dr. Michael Rees of the University of Toledo, who developed an altruistic kidney donation model that could drastically reduce the thousands of people waiting for a kidney transplant each year. Dr. Rees is especially appreciative of Renewal’s unbelievable achievements.
In addition to the well-known statement that “whoever saves one life is as though a whole world was saved,” (Sanhedrin 4:5) the Kiddush Hashem that results from Renewal’s work is inestimable. The officers of the Renewal organization must be saluted for their selfless efforts. They include Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, director; Rabbi Menachem Friedman, program director; Mendy Reiner, founder and chairman; and Sendy Orenstein, president.
At the gathering, one lady told her personal story. Her husband experienced kidney failure. Their happily married family life was negatively affected. Eventually, he had to undergo kidney dialysis, but his health deteriorated further. He was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Miraculously, Renewal was able to quickly identify and arrange a suitable donor.
This was before Pesach and the family presumed that, in spite of the great need, it would be best for all to wait until after the busy yom tov to undergo the process. However, Renewal’s donor, presented with the life-giving opportunity, insisted that the lifesaving procedure be performed as soon as possible. If pain and worry of another Jew and his family could be prevented, the donor did not want to wait even one extra day.
The speaker tearfully continued telling her story. “The story did not end there,” she said. The transplant was successful and their family life dramatically improved. Shabbos became a celebration. Yom tov was again a time of great joy. It was then that she decided that she would donate one of her kidneys.
She enabled another person to return to full health and a full life. She then realized the totality of Renewal’s indescribable work, for both recipient and donor. Renewal assumed every household need, for her husband and for her children. Renewal was there until she was again completely able to provide her family with every motherly need.
The gathering also served as a get-together of other recipients as well as other donors who were ecstatic to meet again. One recipient emoted aloud, “You are all truly angels from Heaven!” v
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.