April 26, 2012 | 1 comment
Five Towners come out strong for Gift of Life
As Jay Feinberg, founder of Gift of Life, looks ahead to the upcoming twelfth annual Partners for Life Gala to be held on May 17, he concisely describes the vision of his organization — one that has touched so many lives in the Five Towns. Simply put, “ No patient [in dire need of a bone marrow transplant] should ever be told that there is no match for them.”
Years ago, “My entire family was crammed in the consultation room when the doctor came in and told my mother, ‘take your son home and help him prepare his bucket list,’” Feinberg recalled.
“The doctor understood hematology and transplant tissue, but didn’t understand the power of the Jewish mother,” Feinberg explained. He was referring to his mother’s strength and conviction during her indomitable hunt for a bone marrow match for her son.
Donors of the same ethnic background as recipients often make the best match, so the Feinbergs launched a worldwide grassroots effort — extending as far and wide as Belarus, Russia and Israel.
After five years and 60,000 people tested, Feinberg’s family and friends didn’t give up, raising money for one last drive. That drive yielded Jay Feinberg’s miracle match and set him on a course to start a bone marrow registry. July 2012 marks eighteen years since Jay’s transplant.
“The Five Towns has been extraordinary for years,” noted Feinberg. “It goes back to when I was looking for a donor. Arthur Friedman, A’H, was involved back in 1991. Yoni Nierenberg, of Woodmere, became involved when his brother-in-law needed a transplant in 2002. Yoni was the first one to say let’s do a drive.”
Feinberg credits Nierenberg as the catalyst for the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns & Rockaway’s involvement as an institution. HAFTR’s president, Adam Lish, a parent at the school, was tested at a drive, and matched with a young boy. “We see him every year,” noted Lish.
Since then HAFTR has held several drives — yielding 36 matches — and has been honored by Gift of Life.
“It has been an incredible chesed partnership,” says Lish, noting how significant it has been for his kids to have grown up experiencing receiving a call and witnessing a school and community mobilizing in space and personnel for such a vital cause.