For some kidney donors, the inspiration to donate comes in a flash: an ill relative, a heart-wrenching story, a chance meeting. For others, the decision is gradually influenced: a donor’s account, a friend’s transplant, a vague awareness of need. In my case, it was a combination of several factors. Three years ago, my shul and community of Merrick, NY was treated to a presentation by a family who had been through a familial transplant with the help of Renewal. Their story touched me personally; my father, Beno, a”h, had been a dialysis nurse for nearly 30 years, and I’d grown up with acute awareness and understanding of the hardship of dialysis.
On that day, I realized that donating a kidney would be the ultimate honor to my father’s memory; I told my wife that I intended to become an altruistic donor when the occasion arose. The matter of kidney donation lingered quietly in my consciousness, constantly bolstered by my work in the international healthcare arena. I assist patients from abroad in obtaining medical care – pediatric care, cancer care, transplants, and other complex treatments – in excellent medical centers in the United States. Many of these leading medical centers, including NY Presbyterian Weill Cornell (where I eventually underwent transplant surgery), are my business partners.
As a native Israeli, I also work regularly with Freddy Rosenfeld of HAREL/DIKLA Insurance. Freddy is one of my mentors as well as a client; he is responsible for coordinating transplants from Israel and works closely with Renewal. The prospect of a transplant never strayed far from my mind. A year after the original presentation, I learned that my rabbi and spiritual leader, Rabbi Ebbin of Ohav Sholom, donated his kidney through Renewal – he’d beaten me to it! With that extra motivation spurring me on, I called Renewal to begin the process.
In March of 2017, I joined the ranks of the living kidney donors, giving my kidney to an unrelated, still-anonymous woman. My wonderful wife, Bella, and our three children, Ben, Aaron, and Maytal, unwaveringly supported me throughout. My mom Zipora traveled from Israel to be by my side; I know that my father is proud and I cannot think of anything more appropriate to honor and memorialize him.
I am grateful to Hashem and humbled by my experience. I’d originally intended to keep my journey to myself; however, after hearing about my recipient’s renewed quality of life and seeing how inspiring my story was to my family, I recognize the importance of spreading awareness of Renewal’s work and the effect of living kidney donation. Every donor’s impetus is different; the impact remains the same.