Subscribe to The Jewish Standard free weekly newsletter

 
Blogs
 

entries tagged with: Teaneckshuls

 

Kidney donor

My children should see what it means to be a Jew

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.

 
 

Beth Am seeks to sell building, merge with other shul

You can find a lot on the Teaneckshuls e-mail list: appliances, doctors, even somebody to bring packages to Israel. Earlier this week, readers learned that Teaneck’s Cong. Beth Am is for sale.

The Reform synagogue has initiated a plan to merge with one of the four surrounding Reform synagogues — Teaneck’s Temple Emeth, Temple Sinai of Bergen County in Tenafly, Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge, or Cong. Adas Emuno in Leonia — although Beth Am leaders have not yet begun discussions as to which one.

“The congregation is grappling with its future and it’s trying to decide how to proceed,” said Rabbi Harvey Rosenfeld. “It’s a self-examination based on demographics, based on community vitality.”

Barry Dounn, Beth Am’s treasurer, said the synagogue would like to complete a merger within a year. Because of the lagging real estate market, synagogue leaders decided to put the building on the market now, rather than wait until a deal is completed.

“We’re expecting it will take a while” to sell the building, he said.

A group of Teaneck residents created Beth Am in 1964 and moved into its Claremont Avenue building the following year. During the late 1980s and early ‘90s, Beth Am had a membership of 140 to 160 families. Now the shul has 40 member-families. The board decided in late 2008 to begin working on a merger, although, Dounn said, putting the building on the market is the first active step it has taken.

“We’ve got a long and valued history,” he said. “It’s something of a difficult decision we’re going through. We need to be realistic and realize that we’ve gotten too small to survive and operate the way we have been.”

In 2008, Union for Reform Judaism leader Rabbi Eric Yoffie said that cash-strapped Reform synagogues could merge with financially struggling Conservative synagogues. Beth Am’s leadership, however, would like to merge with another Reform synagogue, said Dounne.

Rosenfeld, who has been with Beth Am for 13 years, said that much of the Teaneck Jewish community has become more traditional, and two Reform synagogues are no longer sustainable.

“People are beginning to mourn what will be lost, but at the same time people are looking toward, hopefully, the creation of a stronger synagogue,” he said. “It’s not necessarily the end of an era but the beginning of new possibilities.”

Ed Malberg, president of the Union for Reform Judaism’s New Jersey-West Hudson Valley Council, has seen a number of Bergen County congregations from various streams seeking out mergers in recent years. The Reform population in the county is not as numerous as it was 30 years ago, he said, but in other parts of the state — such as Morris, Somerset, and Mercer counties — Jews are moving into areas where they had not previously clustered.

“It’s the kind of thing we saw much more frequently in Bergen and Essex 20 to 30 years ago,” he said.

The Reform movement remains strong, he said. He pointed to the movement’s National Federation of Temple Youth and camps, which he said have shown strong numbers last year and will likely top that this year.

Temple Avoda in Fair Lawn merged with Temple Sholom in River Edge last year to become Temple Avodat Shalom. Rabbi Jonathan Woll, Avoda’s religious leader, did not join the merged congregation in River Edge. Dounn said no decision has been made as to whether Rosenfeld or Cantor Susan Cohen DeStefano would continue in their roles after a merger.

 
 

Golf outing will raise funds for Parkinson’s research

Three years ago, just after Teaneck surgeon Lou Flancbaum informed family and friends that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, neighbors started bringing the Flancbaums dinner. Rabbi Elliot Schoenberg, a friend and fellow Cong. Beth Sholom worshipper, brought a golf club.

Though both gestures were appreciated by Flancbaum and his wife, Debby, the club proved to be the gift that kept on giving. Flancbaum, now 56, was told by his physician that exercise — yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, dancing, and activities such as golf — can keep the progressive neurological condition from causing debilitating stiffness and loss of balance. “I had him enrolled in so many classes, he said he felt like an over-programmed 12-year-old,” said his wife.

But it was golf that particularly caught his fancy. So it was only natural to combine his love of golf with the quest for a cure for Parkinson’s, one of the most common disorders in people over 50. The Flancbaums and a committee of volunteers, recruited partly through the Yahoo group Teaneckshuls, will co-chair a June 11 fundraiser at Lochmoor Golf Course in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., next to Vacation Village. The donation of $180 per player, to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation, will include the cost of two kosher meals.

image
Members of the Pars for Parkinson’s committee include, from left, back row, Phil Rhodes, Ira Goetz, Debby Flancbaum, Dr. Lou Flancbaum, Brian Blitz, and Dr. Les Glubo; middle row, Mindy Silverstein, Ricki Kudowitz, and Avi Goldin; and foreground, Marlene Rhodes. Not pictured are Cindy Blitz, Tova Flancbaum, L’via Weisinger, and Alex and Vicki Wulwick.

“We chose the Fox Foundation because, outside of the [federal] National Institutes of Health, it is the only one really focusing on cutting-edge research likely to lead to new frontiers in the search for a cure,” said Flancbaum. “Its goal is to find a cure and then put a lock on the door.”

Meeting each Sunday for the past six months, the “Pars for Parkinson’s” committee — whose members hail from diverse Jewish communities in Teaneck, River Edge, Fair Lawn, and Englewood — has been recruiting players for the event under the auspices of the foundation’s Team Fox (see details at http://www.teamfox.org/2010/parsforparkinsons). Members include L’via Weisinger, Les Glubo, Marlene and Phil Rhodes, Cindy and Brian Blitz, Ricki Kudowitz, Orna Zack, Avi Goldin, Tova Flancbaum (Lou Flancbaum’s daughter), Ira Goetz, and Vicki and Alex Wulwick.

“We thought we’d raise $5,000, but have raised about $20,000,” said Debby Flancbaum more than a month before the outing. “I think ultimately we’ll see between $25,000 and $30,000, which is amazing. We’ve even gotten checks from total strangers.”

Thanks to the committee’s efforts, the only non-donated expense is the rental of the facility, a Sullivan County golf course where Lou Flancbaum takes lessons with resident pro Mike Deaver. “It’s an easy course, so it makes middle-aged Jewish guys feel good about themselves,” joked his wife. The former surgeon now shoots a respectable 94 or 95 on average.

Before his condition forced him into early retirement, Flancbaum was not a stereotypical golfer doctor. “Golfing passes a lot of time and is very enjoyable, which I think in my former life I never would have liked,” he said. “If you want to do it correctly, it poses motor challenges that are beneficial for my Parkinson’s. The right golf swing is complicated, which is why even Tiger Woods has a full-time coach.”

Flancbaum explained that intellectual and physical neurological challenges are considered at least as important as the Israeli-developed medication he takes to slow the disorder’s progression. “People used to think that once a nerve cell was injured, it was lost. But we are starting to understand that cells, and even organs, have ways of opening new pathways to weasel around injury.... The more you challenge yourself, the more you can recruit new cells and neurons to maintain function.”

He added that a possible link has recently been discovered between Parkinson’s and a form of Gaucher’s disease, a neurological condition prevalent in Ashkenazi Jews. Parkinson’s is not always hereditary, but this link may lead to its classification as a “Jewish disease,” Flancbaum said.

Sponsorship of Pars for Parkinson’s is solidly Jewish. Breakfast will be donated by Fusion Caterers, which caters lunch at New Milford’s Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. The Flancbaums got to know owner Jay Marcus while volunteering at Schechter, where their granddaughter, Aleeza Reich, is a student.

Clark Lofman of Fish of the Cs in Teaneck is donating lunch; cakes are contributed by Zadie’s Kosher Bakery in Fair Lawn. Golf shirts are courtesy of Jonathan Speiser of Dougies BBQ in Teaneck. Five Star Caterers, also based in Teaneck, is throwing in the golf balls — three per player. In addition, Hoerr’s is sending potato chips and ShopRite of Liberty is providing soft drinks.

Cigars and beer, traditional to golfing culture, will be available as well. Debby Flancbaum said that nicotine in controlled doses has been found to ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s, “although I wouldn’t encourage people to start smoking.”

M&M Auto Group of Liberty is contributing the hole-in-one prize: a three-year lease on a 2010 Ford Fusion. “Usually, you have to buy insurance for a donated car, but they are covering that, too,” said Debby Flancbaum. “We’ve just been very lucky that the community has rallied around this idea.”

Committee member Avi Goldin said, “This is a cause that is of particular interest to me and my wife, Rena. We are familiar with the Michael J. Fox Foundation and participated in a previous event in New York City. My wife saw one of the original posts about the tournament [on teaneckshuls] and I responded that I would like to bring a foursome of golfers. Lou thanked me and asked if I would be willing to help them plan the event, and I agreed.”

The Flancbaums hope to get close to the maximum capacity of 72 golfers, and if the event is successful, plan to make it an annual outing.

 
 

Golfing fundraiser renamed in memory of Paul Kudowitz

Pars for Parkinsons benefit tees off in May

An annual golfing benefit for Parkinson’s research was started by and for one Bergen County Jewish family last year. Now, the circle has widened.

Pars for Parkinson’s was the brainchild of Teaneck’s Dr. Lou Flancbaum and his wife, Debby. Lou Flancbaum, a surgeon, had to retire at age 53 in 2007 because of the progressive neurological condition. He discovered his passion for golf after his physician recommended exercise to stave off the stiffness and loss of balance that accompany Parkinson’s disease.

image
Dr. Paul Kudowitz COURTESY KUDOWITZ FAMILY

Last spring, the inaugural event raised more than $44,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, with the help of a cadre of volunteers recruited through the “teaneckshuls” and “englewoodshuls” Yahoo groups. One of those volunteers was Ricki Kudowitz of Englewood, herself a Parkinson’s patient.

This year, the May 15 event has been renamed Pars for Parkinson’s: The Paul Kudowitz Memorial Golf Outing, in memory of Ricki Kudowitz’s husband, an anesthesiologist killed by a car as he walked home from davening at his son Brian’s home in Englewood on Dec. 24. A month later, his 13-year-old daughter, Moriah School eighth-grader Sabrina, came along to the Pars committee meeting.

When Debby Flancbaum showed the group some sample Michael J. Fox Foundation rubber bracelets, Sabrina offered to sell them at Moriah and got permission to do so.

“I’ve sold 35, and there are more kids waiting for the next batch to come in,” Sabrina told The Jewish Standard.

image
At last year’s Pars for Parkinson golf outing are, from left, Steven Levy, Dr. Lou Flancbaum, and Jay Greenspan. This year’s outing has been renamed in memory of Dr. Paul Kudowitz of Englewood, pictured at top, who was killed in a hit-run accident Dec. 24. Paula Kelly/Paula Kelly Designs

The bracelets are available in royal blue and pink, with orange and red lettering that says “Team Fox” and “Paul Kudowitz Memorial Golf Outing.”

The next batch of 1,000 also will be sold by Sabrina’s older sisters — Cara, 21, at Rutgers University, and Ariele, 25, and Shanna, 24, who live and work in Manhattan. In addition, bracelets will be sold at the Frisch School in Paramus by Haley Silverstein, whose mother is on the Pars committee and whose grandfather had Parkinson’s. The Kudowitz daughters made a Facebook page to help promote the bracelets.

Brian Kudowitz and his wife, Laura, are raising funds for the charity event and are planning to compete in a triathlon this summer for the benefit of the Fox Foundation. “Laura bakes and sells challah every week and earmarks the proceeds to the triathlon and Pars,” said her mother-in-law.

The oldest Kudowitz daughter, Robyn, and her husband, Jonathan Katz, had volunteered to donate hot dogs and burgers for the outing through their Kosher Sports business even before the death of her father.

“We’re a family of doers,” said Ricki Kudowitz. It had been her husband who had noticed the posting on Englewoodshuls about the Pars for Parkinsons committee and had encouraged her to get involved. “He was always a proactive person. He believed you get things by going after them.”

Children of several other committee members have pitched in to solicit corporate and goods-and-services donations, said Flancbaum, including her own daughter, Rachel Sicolo, who works at Kessler Rehab Center and got a donation of anesthetic ointment for the golfers.

“Everyone’s children were moved by what happened with Paul,” said Debby Flancbaum. “It’s very touching. Haley Silverstein never met the Kudowitzes but she wants to start coming to the meetings with her mother. The story has touched people and made them think twice about the fragility of life. There is a feeling that they want some good to come from [the tragedy].”

The second annual Pars for Parkinson’s Golf Outing will take place at Terry Brae Golf Course in South Fallsburg, N.Y. “The excitement and tremendous support mounting around this year’s event make us confident that we will reach and surpass our new goal of $50,000,” said Lou Flancbaum.

The event costs $180 per person or $600 per foursome and includes golf, a cart, kosher continental breakfast and barbecue lunch, beer, soft drinks, a Team Fox golf shirt, a sleeve of balls and other assorted items. The hole-in-one prize is a car, donated by M and M Auto Group of Liberty, N.Y. Hole sponsorships are available for $250, $500, $750, and $1,000. Details are available at www.tinyurl.com/pars-for-parkinson-s.

Among other businesses donating goods and services are Herr’s; Monticello ShopRite; David’s Cookies of Fairfield; Jon-Da Printing of Jersey City; and Butterflake Bake Shop, Sababa Grill, Sammy’s Bagels, Ma’adan, and BLD Fine Art, all of Teaneck.

The Pars for Parkinson’s committee members are Teaneck residents Brian and Cindy Blitz, Ira Goetz, Avi Goldin, Les Glubo, Phillip and Marlene Rhodes, Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, Marcy Rubin, L’via Weisinger, Mike Markel, and Bob and Suzan Topaz; Mindy Silverstein of Fair Lawn; Alex and Vicki Wulwick of River Edge; Tova Flancbaum of Manhattan; and Englewood residents Ricki Kudowitz, Jonathan and Robyn Katz, Brian and Laura Kudowitz, and Sabrina Kudowitz.

 
 
 
Page 1 of 1 pages
 
 
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