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California Chabad Rabbi Donates Kidney

Paul, a resident of Northern California’s Bay Area, was not likely to make it to his 60th birthday. Advanced kidney disease meant that he’d need a transplant to live. 

“At that time I turned to our community,” said Paul, who asked that his last name be withheld. After a five-year search for a kidney donor came up short, he decided to turn to his Chabad reps, Rabbi Raleigh and Fruma Resnick.

“When I contacted the Rabbi, he and Fruma jumped into action,” Paul told Lubavitch.com. “Rabbi Resnick sent out a letter to our community explaining my situation and made a call for volunteer donors.”

But the rabbi felt a sense of urgency to do better. “I went home that night and thought about it,” Resnick told Lubavitch.com “Being in a position of leadership and guidance instills within you the urgency that you’re expressing to others.” 

He would be the donor.

As it turned out, of all the community members who volunteered, Rabbi Resnick was the only one in good enough health to donate his kidney. Alas, Resnick’s blood type wasn’t a match for Paul’s.

There was a way around it. The University of California, San Francisco Medical Center’s Kidney Transplant Center, which is part of the national Kidney Registry program, offers a sophisticated swapping program allowing people to donate an organ on behalf of a patient in need. 

Resnick would donate his kidney to another patient and get Paul on the shortlist for a kidney of his own.

“By Rabbi Resnick donating a kidney for me to get a match, he gave me a brand new life,” Paul said. “I am no longer tied to dialysis three times a week for five hours at a time. I am no longer feeling run down and in much discomfort.  My food restrictions have been lifted so I am able to enjoy food and drinks and celebrate life. I am back to a fully healthy life where I can enjoy my time with my family, my community, travel, go to the gym and be a normal person again.”

This Shabbat, Paul and Rabbi Resnick will lead a discussion over lunch marking a year since the kidney donation.

Resnick is at least the second kidney donation by a Chabad rabbi. In 2010, Rabbi Ephraim Simon of Bergen County, NJ, donated a kidney and then, in 2019, he donated his liver, respectively, to strangers.

Resnick says it’s important to remember that anyone can be a donor—you don’t have to be a match; you just need to want to give.

“The Rebbe emphasized love for a fellow Jew; giving them whatever they need, both materially and spiritually,” Resnick said. “Donating my kidney was simply something that, as a shliach, I felt I should do.”

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