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Rabbi, Can You Get Us a Kidney?

Can you Get us a Kidney? 

A kidney??

In the context of reaching out through our Henaynu Caring Community committee, I have been asked to help arrange many things: meals for a family whose mother was hospitalized, rides for an elderly member to services, volunteers to set out a shiva meal following a funeral, community services through our partnership with an onsite Jewish Family Service social worker, and even text messages and Facebook posts for a sick teen who was confined to his home. But to help arrange a kidney for a congregant family, that was new to me.

Still, if Congregation Or Ami (Calabasas) stays true to its core value of Henaynu (that we will be there for each other in good times and bad), then helping to arrange a life-saving kidney transplant can be on the list also.

It IS Life or Death
I don’t want to over dramatize this but want to express the need clearly.

Steve and Laurie Keleman

Adam Keleman is the son of founding members Laurie and Steve Keleman. Adam, is 30 years old and wants to make movies. About 3 years ago, he moved to New York, where he could practice his craft. He lived a full life, since he received his first transplanted kidney at age 18.

You see, Adam has a kidney disease called IGA Nephropathy. The disease prevents the kidneys from filtering properly, ultimately resulting in kidney failure for both kidneys. The treatments are dialysis or transplantation.

Adam’s Mom, Laurie, donated his first kidney. Who wouldn’t give up a kidney for their own kid? That transplanted kidney has been very successful. Adam’s body accepted the kidney, and he has done pretty well. We all wanted to believe that he will never need another kidney.

But, earlier this year, the key markers of the disease appeared again. Attempts were made to stall the disease, but with time the disease began to damage his kidney and it continues to worsen.

There is no cure yet.

So Adam needs a transplant or return to dialysis. While many people are on dialysis, it is restrictive and debilitating. This comes with extensive side effects.

Yes, Adam needs a transplant. His father is not a viable match, nor at this time are any close family members able to donate. So Adam needs, we need, a kidney donated from someone who has “B” or “O” blood type.

While there is a national organ donation list, it has at least a 5-year wait. The Kelemans have let their friends know, and Adam has put an announcement on Facebook. However, we need to cast a wider net to help find this needed kidney.

What’s Judaism Have to Say about Organ Donation?
Jewish tradition teaches that we are partners with God in continuing and sustaining the daily miracles of creation. Organ and tissue donations are an extension of this partnership. Through donation, we have the unique and holy opportunity to bestow the gift of life and wellness from one of God’s creations—you—to another. With your gift, you are responding Hineini (Here I Am!) to God’s call. In fact, Reform Judaism (through the URJ Commission on Social Action, Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, and Women of Reform Judaism) has long been an advocate of organ and tissue donation. A 1968 Reform responsum noted that the use of such organs to heal or save a life is in keeping with the Jewish tradition and a positive act of holiness (discussed in CCAR responsum 5763.2 on Live Liver Transplantation).

Do Other Movements within Judaism Agree?
Yes. The value of pikuach nefesh (the saving of a life) underscores this belief within our entire community, regardless of denominational affiliation. The obligation of pikuach nefesh is an overriding principle of Jewish law. This would support the idea of organ donation.The Union for Reform Judaism Jewish Family Concerns Bioethics Study Guide on Organ and Tissue Donation provides a complete overview of the Jewish perspective.

Doesn’t Judaism Require Us to be Buried with our Bodies Intact?
Judaism draws a distinction in the case of donating organs and tissues to save a life.

So Do a Mitzvah
A mitzvah is both a good deed and a Jewish responsibility. Helping Adam Keleman fulfills both.

How to Help

  • Let the Kelemans know that you are willing to undergo the testing to see if you are a match. The Kelemans will cover all costs. 
  • Share this life-saving mitzvah opportunity with other friends and family – by word of mouth, by forwarding this blogpost on Facebook, Twitter, email, LinkedIn, Google+, and by any other means you can think of using. 
  • Post this blog on any lists or groups to which you belong. 
  • Let Rabbi Kipnes know how else you might you might help.

By helping Adam Keleman, and his parents Laurie and Steve, you are giving something of yourself to another to improve another’s life. Further, you are making it possible for a young man to pursue his dream and live a healthier life.

Thank you.

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