Subscribe to The Jewish Standard free weekly newsletter

 
font size: +
 

Kidney donor

My children should see what it means to be a Jew

 
|| Tell-a-Friend || Print
 
 
image
The Simon family: From left, in back: Esther, Eli, Chana’le, Sara, Chaya, Mendel, Shaina, and Rivka. In the front: Rabbi Ephraim, Nechamy, and on her lap, Michel.

“The rabbi’s greatest sermon is the way he lives his life.”

Need a babysitter, a ride to Manhattan, or a kosher used barbecue grill? TeaneckShuls, a moderated listserv connecting people in the northern New Jersey area, can help you find what you need. Need a kidney? TeaneckShuls can help as well. Ruthie Levi, a moderator for the listserv, reports that “as a result of an e-mail posting on this list for someone seeking a kidney donation, Rabbi Ephraim Simon of Chabad Teaneck has … successfully donated his own kidney.”

“It’s not like I woke up one morning and wanted to donate a kidney,” said Simon, who serves as the Chabad rabbi in Teaneck. “My own children, ages 2 to 14, are my first priority.” He recounted how a woman named Chaya Lipshutz had been posting for years on TeaneckShuls about people who needed kidney donors. “I would read them, and sigh, and go on with my day. I have nine little children and it was not something I would envision doing.” However, one such posting touched him deeply. “In August 2008, [Lipshutz] had a post of a 12-year-old girl — how could I let a 12-year-old girl die? I have a daughter who is 12.”

The rabbi assumed that kidney donation was like bone marrow donation, where the chances of being a match would be slim, but he was willing to try. He soon learned that if the kidney donor and recipient have the same blood type there is a good chance of a match.

“I spoke to my wife about it. We discussed it intensely; we could not let a 12-year-old girl die.” When he called a few days later to offer to test for the youngster, the need had already been met. “My wife was very relieved. But for me, I felt if I could do this for her, I could do it for someone else in a similar situation.” He was tested as a donor for the next two postings, a 40-year-old mother of two and a 30-year-old male, but he did not match. “OK,” he thought. “I can’t give this kidney away.”

Then last spring, Simon, 41, learned of a 51-year-old father of 10 who desperately needed a kidney. “After Purim I was tested. About one hour before the [Passover] seder I got a call from the hospital: ‘Rabbi Simon, you match.’”

“Between Pesach and Shavuos there were a lot of medical tests to ensure I was healthy. An MRI, CAT scan, EKG, psychiatric evaluation. I passed all the tests with flying colors,” said Simon. “Since I’m a Chabad rabbi, in the summer we have summer camp to run. I asked if it was OK to wait until after camp ends.” Camp ended on Aug. 7, and the following week the two surgeries were performed at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. According to Simon, the recipient’s medical insurance paid the costs for both operations.

Risks and rewards

“It’s very difficult to find altruistic donors,” said Simon. “Eighty thousand people need kidneys. The amount of people willing to donate is not that many. Live kidneys from living donors are healthier, and last longer” than kidneys from cadavers.

Although the outcome for the recipient is better with a kidney from a living donor, the process does pose some hazards for the donor. Some risks of kidney donation listed by the United Network for Organ Sharing Website (www.unos.org) include pain, increased risks of infection, blood clots, hypertension, kidney failure, proteinuria (greater than normal amounts of protein in urine), and death. But most of these complications are rare. Lipshutz reported that “99 percent of the time there are no complications for the donor. As for the recipient, there’s about a 5 percent chance that the kidney will fail.”

“I’m in touch with many donors,” said Lipshutz, who herself was a kidney donor in 2005. “We’re all doing great and wish we could do it again.”

Simon explained that he did extensive research. “There are risks,” he said, “but they are minimal. [A donor will go through] life with one kidney, but you have plenty of kidney function with one kidney to live a long, healthy life.”

“If you have one kidney and something happens to it, then you’re in trouble,” said Simon. However, he pointed out, most types of kidney disease affect both kidneys equally. In such cases, having two kidneys would not provide an advantage. “The two real risks are: If there’s a tumor on the kidney, and they have to take out your kidney, you’re in trouble, and if there’s an accident and you have damage to the kidney, then you don’t have another kidney to rely on.” Both of those scenarios are quite rare, said Simon, so the risks are small.

However, according to the National Kidney Foundation Website, the ability to obtain health or life insurance may be an issue. In some cases living donors had difficulty changing carriers and faced higher premiums or waiting periods before qualifying for coverage.

“If I put on a scale the risks and rewards, and I can save a human being, and give a father of 10 back to his children and a husband back to his wife, that reward outweighs the risk,” said Simon. “I can’t live my life afraid of tiny risks. Every time we get in a car we take risks. It is such a small risk to save a life.”

Simon reported that in the process of screening you are asked if you are getting any money to be a donor. “I responded I wouldn’t sell this mitzvah for anything in the world. My two motivations were to save his life and be an example for my children,” he said.

“My younger ones don’t completely understand. The older ones said, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ The real hero in all this is my wife [Nechamy]. My wife has been very supportive from the minute I came to her with the [need for a donor for the] 12-year-old girl…. For my wife it’s a much bigger sacrifice. When you have nine children you need both parents hands-on.… I live to make life easier for my wife. and this will temporarily not make life easier for her.”

A major goal of Simon’s was the lesson he could provide for others. He was disturbed by the recent scandal involving Jews selling kidneys. “Sometimes the pressures of having to support institutions lead some down a perilous road. The chillul HaShem, desecration of God’s name, is unfortunate,” he said referring to the arrests last month of Jewish community leaders in New Jersey and New York. “Rabbis have to realize we are in a spotlight and we are supposed to be a light unto the nations.

“I hope that my operation taking place at the same time will show that there are good people as well, and it will be a kiddush HaShem [sanctification of God’s name].

“I’m a rabbi and I teach my congregation and children how important it is to give,” he continued. “HaShem put us here to help others.… My children should see what it means to be a Jew and to sacrifice for others. I told my older children, ‘You all are one of my main motivations for doing that, so that you should have an example.’

“My whole life I live to inspire others to be better,” said Simon. “The rabbi’s greatest sermon is the way he lives his life.”

The recipient

Simon met the recipient, who wishes to remain anonymous, during the initial testing and right before the operations. Both surgeries, done in tandem by two separate surgeons, went smoothly.

“The kidney started working right on the operating table for him. In 48 hours he had completely normal kidney function,” Simon reported. Since they were in the same hospital as the recipient, Simon and his wife went to visit him before Shabbat. “His surgeon walked in while I was there and said, ‘You gave him a fantastic kidney. I would have thought it was from a brother.’”

“It was just an amazing experience, right up there with the birth of my nine children,” said Simon.

“Here’s a man who was dying and now he’s a healthy man. It’s so rewarding to see that and to see the looks on his and his wife’s faces. They said, ‘What can we say? What is thank you? It doesn’t begin to touch the surface.’

“I told him, ‘Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity,’” said Simon. “I really feel that way. I don’t want him or his wife to feel any obligation. It’s my incredible honor. He shouldn’t feel that he owes me anything ever.

“I left up to him if he would like to stay in touch,” Simon continued. “When he’s fully recovered he wants to bring his entire family to meet my family.” He reflected, “God could have just as easily made me the recipient.”

Perspectives on the selfless act

Raised as a secular Jew in California, Ephraim Simon was a college student when he was motivated by radio talk show host Dennis Prager to learn more about Judaism. “I became more inspired by the teachings of Chabad and the message of the Lubavitcher rebbe. I ended up in a Chabad yeshiva in Morristown, the Rabbinical College of America.” After seven years in Coconut Grove, Fla., he moved to Teaneck, where he’s been the Chabad rabbi for the past six years.

Lawrence Milstein, a Teaneck resident who attends a class offered by Simon, said that the rabbi’s deed has inspired others in the community. “When I visited with him after the surgery he was so happy that he could donate his kidney and help this person it was as if he was a bride on her wedding day with a glow about him,” wrote Milstein in an e-mail. “We have all in certain situations turned to each other and said, ‘If Rabbi Simon can donate his kidney, I can at least do such and such’. For some it is stretching to give more time and or money to worthy causes at a time when we are all feeling the economic pinch, or it is committing to being a better parent, spouse, or friend.”

“Frankly, some of us [in the class] are even talking about following in his footsteps and donating a kidney, and although in reality I believe that it is unlikely that any of us will muster the courage to actually do it, we are certainly taking other actions in our own lives to make a positive impact,” Milstein wrote.

“There is a special place in heaven for people like Rabbi Simon. He has literally given a piece of himself to save another person,” wrote Teaneck Mayor Kevie Feit in an e-mail. “It is truly inspiring. Donating a vital organ is not for everyone but I hope this act inspires people to at least be more aware of the need, and possibly consider filling out a donor card.” He suggests that people check the organ donor option on the back of a driver’s license, or register as a Halachic Organ Donor. (For more information on the Halachic Organ Donor Society, go to www.hods.org.)

Lipshutz, whose posting on TeaneckShuls led to the donation, commented on Simon’s extraordinary act. “Every time he would see a posting he would ask, ‘What about me?’ He just wanted to save everybody’s life.”

Levi, moderator of Teaneckshuls, summed up the accomplishment. “We all have favorite, weird, legendary, entertaining, etc., TeaneckShuls posting tales to tell. But this is the purpose of this list — members helping others.”

For more information on Lipshutz’s kidney-matching project and to become a Halachic organ donor, here are some sources:

www.kidneymitzvah.com, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

United Network for Organ Sharing Website is at www.unos.org.

Teaneckshuls is a listserv sponsored by YahooGroups. Information on membership can be found at www.teaneckshuls.org.

Information on the National Kidney Foundation can be found at www.kidney.org.

Miryam Z. Wahrman is professor of biology at William Paterson University in Wayne. She has done research and written extensively on bioethics and biomedical science.
{/exp:member2:custom_profile_data}
 

More on: Kidney donor

 
 
 

A Jewish action hero

With so many Jewish villains in the news lately, including convicted financial scoundrel Bernard Madoff, corrupt politicians, and Jewish community leaders allegedly laundering money, it is refreshing to discover and applaud a true Jewish hero.

A grassroots e-mail campaign is promoting Rabbi Ephraim Simon for recognition as a Jewish Hero in United Jewish Communities’ online contest. If he receives enough votes on the UJC Website (www.jewishcommunityheroes.org/nominees/profile/rabbi-ephraim-simon), then his altruistic act may be recognized by UJC, the Jewish federation’s umbrella organization, with a $25,000 donation to Teaneck Chabad House.

 
 

The need, the process, and legislation

There are 80,729 people in the United States on waiting lists for a kidney (2,723 in New Jersey). Although the number of living donors has increased in recent years, the rate of donation does not keep up with demand and many people die while waiting for a kidney. There are approximately 6,000 live kidney donations per year in the United States, representing about 45 percent of all kidneys donated (the rest are from deceased donors). In New Jersey, living donors have actually eclipsed deceased donors; in the last 10 years there were 1,472 living kidney donors, compared with 1,297 deceased donors.

 
 
 
|| Tell-a-Friend || Print
 
 

Stay tuned for the return of comments

Kidney Donor & Kidney Matchmaker posted 30 Aug 2009 at 10:47 AM

Hi!

I am the person who made Rabbi Simon’s kidney match.  What can I say about him?  He is a very special person.  it was an honor and pleasure to do his match.  Wish many others would follow

Another special person in this Teaneck community that I wanted to mention about - is Dr. Stuart Greenstein, a much beloved kidney transplant surgeon at Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY - the hospital where I had donated a kidney.  I know of many people who have had kidney transplants done by him and were so happy with him.  Dr. Greenstein does so much chesed as well.  He is a very humble person.  He even has people from Israel who come to New York to have a kidney transplant done by him.  And do you know what he does when he goes on vacation to Israel?  He goes and visits ex-patients of his. And doesn’t charge.  Do you know anyone who would do this on their vacation?  Very special person.  And I am so happy I ended up donating a kdiney at his hospital.

Chaya Lipschutz
KidneyMitzvah.com

Kidney Donor & Kidney Matchmaker posted 30 Aug 2009 at 10:52 AM

Many others have contacted me that urgently need of a kidney including:

37 year old mother of 2 little kids - a 2 year old and 4 year old.  She is on dialysis for 12 years!

Also, a 35 yer old man from Israel who came to the USA looking for someone to donate a kidney. Once he gets a kidney, he would like to go back to Israel, get married, have children and learn more Torah! 

Both have very high antibodies and have a hard time finding a match because of that.

One blood test and you can test for the both of them.

Please cotact me !  I can give you all the info you need.

Sincerely,

Chaya Lipschutz
E-mail:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Website:  KidneyMitzvah.com

nathan berkowitz posted 01 Sep 2009 at 06:44 AM

Rabbi Simon is an inspiration to every jew who wants to bring meaning to their lives. His example is what a true torah jew is all about. Keep up the wonderful work that you do . all the best

isaac posted 01 Sep 2009 at 08:20 PM

sometimes it is time to go.

Kidney Donor & Kidney Matchmaker posted 01 Sep 2009 at 08:33 PM

Isaac - what do you mean that “sometimes it is time to go.”  The person who Rabbi Simon donated a kdiney to is only 51 years old!

kind posted 11 Sep 2009 at 09:54 AM

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
try writing here see what they can do for you

Pnina posted 14 Sep 2009 at 03:48 AM

I was inspired by Rabbi Simon and wanted to vote for him every day, but I can’t seem to find where or how to do it.?  Please advise.

Thank you.
Pnina

onedollarman posted 30 May 2010 at 10:29 PM

I am a living kidney donor. I am 29 years old man, I live in Hungary I live in Europe. My blood type is A negative. If you are interested in put on the contact for me. my email adress: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

dennis Surla posted 23 Jun 2010 at 12:36 PM

im a living donor my blood type is O im 29 yrs old contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Tshephang posted 10 Nov 2010 at 04:13 AM

Hi there i’m willing to donate one of my kidneys if you are interested contact me on email address .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

 

Dentistry in Africa

Local father-daughter duo fix teeth in Jewish Ugandan village

Kayla Grunstein’s parents, Shira and Dr. Robert Grunstein, didn’t want her to “be a brat,” Kayla said.

They wanted her to learn something about the world and her place in it, about the importance of work and the satisfaction of a job well done, about gratitude and generosity and giving.

They also were not adverse to allowing the 14-year-old some excitement and adventure at the same time.

In fact, a lot of excitement and adventure. With the Abayudaya in Uganda.

This is how it happened.

Her father, Dr. Robert Grunstein, is a dentist. He lives in Teaneck but has spent his career working mainly with lower-income children in Passaic and Paterson. He had the brilliant idea (yes, this is journalism, but some things are so clear that they just must be said, so brilliant idea it is) of buying an old fire truck and turning it into a mobile dental office. “Kids love fire trucks, and they are ambivalent at best about going to the dentist,” he said. “If you mix the two, it becomes more palatable.

 

We’ve got the horse right here…

Local Orthodox family wins the Kentucky Derby. Really!

It took American Pharoah barely more than two minutes and two seconds to win the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

For Joanne Zayat of Teaneck, whose husband, Ahmed, owns American Pharoah (and yes, that is how it is spelled), those two minutes and barely more than two seconds stretched out and then blurred and bore little relation to regular time as it usually passes.

There she was — really, there they were, Ahmed and Joanne Zayat, their four children — all Orthodox Jews — and a small crowd of friends and relatives, in one of the owners’ boxes at Churchill Downs in Lexington, Kentucky, on a glorious flowering spring Shabbat, watching as their horse won America’s most iconic horse race.

How did they get there?

 

Born to lead

The head of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey tells his story — and federation’s

Learning to cull less-than-perfect goldfish as they hurtle by you on a slimy assembly line, using your bare hands, disposing of them in garbage bags, is not a skill most nice Jewish boys acquire.

Nor is standing in the middle of an ice-cold pond in a torn wetsuit and hand-selecting the most decorative available koi, at the orders of overseas hoteliers, again with your bare hands.

Jason Shames of Haworth did both those things, during a stay on an Israeli kibbutz. Those and similar skills, oddly enough, were part of a logical progression that took Mr. Shames from the Bronx to the helm of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, a job he accepted four years ago this week.

 

RECENTLYADDED

‘Indescribable’ connections

Zahal Shalom brings Israeli veterans to Ridgewood for touring, love

What happened when the alarm went off in the Pentagon was a reminder of one of the reasons local volunteers behind Zahal Shalom are so eager to open their homes, their schedules, and their wallets to 10 wounded Israeli veterans each year.

During their two-week stay, the Israelis get to see New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C.

In Washington, they visited the monuments, ate in the Senate dining room, and took a tour of the Pentagon, where — and this was not on the five-page itinerary — a fire drill caused alarms to clang loudly.

For Anat Nitsan, the alarm brought back memories from the Yom Kippur war, more than 40 years ago. Now an art curator, then she was a soldier at the air force base at Sharm el-Sheikh, at the southern tip of Sinai. She survived the initial surprise attack from the Egyptian air force. And then, in a case of friendly fire, she watched in horror as a missile seemed to target her directly. Somehow she survived that too — though not without a case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

We’ve got the horse right here…

Local Orthodox family wins the Kentucky Derby. Really!

It took American Pharoah barely more than two minutes and two seconds to win the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

For Joanne Zayat of Teaneck, whose husband, Ahmed, owns American Pharoah (and yes, that is how it is spelled), those two minutes and barely more than two seconds stretched out and then blurred and bore little relation to regular time as it usually passes.

There she was — really, there they were, Ahmed and Joanne Zayat, their four children — all Orthodox Jews — and a small crowd of friends and relatives, in one of the owners’ boxes at Churchill Downs in Lexington, Kentucky, on a glorious flowering spring Shabbat, watching as their horse won America’s most iconic horse race.

How did they get there?

 

100 years in Hoboken

United Synagogue’s building celebrates its centennial

Hoboken is surprisingly small, given its outsize reputation.

It’s only got 50,000 residents, and its nickname, Mile Square City, is roughly accurate. (“It actually covers an area of two square miles when including the under-water parts in the Hudson River,” Wikipedia helpfully tells us. It’s hard to understand why anyone would want to count the underwater parts.)

It’s a city with a storied history — Frank Sinatra, “On the Waterfront” and therefore Marlon Brando, gangsters, music, angst, longshoremen, gritty local color. Its lack of parking, which makes finding a space in Manhattan seem relatively as easy as finding one in, say, Montana, is legendary.

For the last few decades, Hoboken’s been home to young people who work in Manhattan but don’t want or can’t afford to live there; it pulses with singles, who might make noises about staying but have tended to move once they’re married and certainly once they have kids.

Hoboken also has a more recent history of apparently being on the cusp, the verge, the very sharp tip of change, but somehow not quite making it.

 
 
S M T W T F S
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31