"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


The Kidney Matchmaker

When my father needed a kidney transplant because of Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) in 2003, he was blessed to have his brother step up as the donor. Tens of thousands of Americans are in need a kidney transplant and have not had any donors step forward. Many people don't realize that even though we were born with two kidneys, we can live perfectly healthy with just one.

Chaya Lipschutz is working hard to help people in need of a kidney transplant, as much as any one person can. Lipschutz, a Jewish vegetarian, calls herself the "Kidney Matchmaker." She has donated a kidney to a stranger, and through her direct interaction with kidney donors and recipients as well as her publicity efforts, she has performed the mitzvah of saving people's lives time and time again.

Here's Chaya Lipschutz in her own words. For more information, please visit http://www.kidneymitzvah.com/.

Suppose someone is content living his/her life and doesn't know anyone who needs a kidney. What would you say to that person to make him/her understand the need to donate a kidney?
There are about 80,000 people in the USA who are in need of a kidney. Thousands are dying each year because there is a great shortage of cadaver kidneys and not enough people becoming a living donor. If someone donates a kidney - they can save someone's life.

I have donated a kidney and it was the greatest experience of my life. My brother donated a kidney as well. I am in touch with many other people in the Jewish community who have … donated a kidney, as well - all are doing great, Boruch Hashem - and some of us wish we can do it again!

Most of the people I know though who donated a kidney are Ultra-Orthodox - and most of the Ultra-Orthodox, are Chassidim. There are 2 Satmar women with 9 children who both donated a kidney. Another Satmar man who donated a kidney when his wife was expecting their 9th child. And a Rabbi of a Chabad house, a 41 year old father of 9, also, will be donating a kidney - to a father of 10! This is one of my upcoming matches. And I have found matches for non-Jews as well. One of my matches - the donor heard me on the radio and the recipient is an African-American person from Brooklyn. This match will be taking place soon.

How many people in the U.S. need a kidney transplant? How urgent is the need for kidney donors?
As mentioned above, about 80,000. How urgent? Some people are on dialysis many years and also … many have a very hard time finding a match because of high antibodies. I had matches for 2 people but their recipients are no longer eligible to have a kidney transplant and another person who was a match - her recipient died before a kidney transplant date was made. Tragic.

What are some of the reasons why people need kidney transplants?
One of the leading causes is diabetes, then high blood pressure. And many times [the cause] can be ... obesity - which often can lead to both health issues. Others may have PKD - like your father ….

Have you met with any resistance to organ transplantation in the Jewish community?
Maybe 75% of the Jewish community realizes that it is halachically allowed to donate a kidney while alive. That part is not an issue. But so many objections - most people are not educated about kidney donation and don't realize one can live with one kidney as well as two. Then when you have people who are interested - they sometimes get back to me - if they are married - their spouse doesn't allow them to donate a kidney. Or parent.

Why are you vegetarian? Do you see a connection between your life-giving/life-saving work as a kidney matchmaker and your vegetarian diet?
I am a vegetarian because I don't like meat or chicken. Not crazy about fish either. I have been like this since I was a kid. I am against cruelty to animals. ...

Many years ago - over 20, in fact (my how time flies) - I went to a Jewish Vegetarians weekend event at a hotel in the Catskills [in upstate New York]. It was awesome. It was nice to see all kinds of Jewish Veggie people - all different Jewish backgrounds, different levels of Judaism all together, under one roof. ...

I don't know if they have had anything like that since. Then, it wasn't so expensive, now to have such an event could be a big expense.


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