It was a race against the clock.  Three-year-old Jimmy (not his real name) was suffering from kidney malfunction, and his life was in jeopardy.  Already, his family had to bring him to the hospital three times a week for four hours of dialysis. His only chance for survival was a new kidney – but not just any kidney. It had to be a kidney that was a perfect match and that could be transplanted in the small body of a three-year-old boy.

As community activist and kidney donor Mr. A.J. Gindi put it, “To find a kidney for a three-year-old boy is no easy task. You cannot just take any kidney and place it in a three-year-old boy’s body. It simply won’t fit.”

“This is a Miracle”

Mr. Gindi told this story in front of the large crowd that assembled at the Sephardic Social Center in West Deal, NJ on July 2ndfor the second annual fundraising dinner for Renewal, the internationally renowned organization that helps kidney patients in need of transplants. The audience sat spellbound as Mr. Gindi described how Renewal raced to the scene to save Jimmy’s life.

Renewal launched a massive, nationwide advertising campaign asking people to get tested so a match could be found. When even a single human life is at stake, money is no object, and thus the organization spent over $25,000 in advertisements. As a result of the publicity campaign, 30 kindhearted people came forward to undergo testing, but unfortunately, none of them was a proper match. Due to the unique circumstances, the donor had to not only have the right blood type and be a certain age, but also be female, weigh less than 115 lbs. and stand 5’ 3” tall.

As the clock continued ticking, little Jimmy’s hospital decided to help. It reached out to the Kidney Foundation, a nationwide organization that facilitates kidney transplants, and, sure enough, they had a match. However, the Foundation agreed to provide a kidney from their reserves only if they received another in return, noting that they did not want to risk being unable to provide a life-saving kidney for a dying patient as a result of relinquishing one to Renewal.

One of the 30 generous volunteers who had tested came forward and agreed to donate a kidney to the Kidney Foundation in exchange for a kidney for Jimmy – whose life was thus saved.

“This is a miracle,” Mr. Gindi said. “It is a miracle that takes place on a daily basis, thanks to the work of Renewal. We have arranged hundreds of transplants, saving hundreds of lives.”

“We Give Life”

Since its founding in 2006, Renewal has saved hundreds of patients’ lives by facilitating kidney transplants. The organization accompanies both the patient and the donor, and their families, at every step along this process, providing professional advice, practical and financial assistance, and emotional support. Renewal has taken the notion of giving to an entirely new level, matching those capable and willing to offer the gift of life with those who desperately need it. Its work has saved lives throughout the Jewish world, including many here in our Sephardic community.

This year’s event was graced by the presence of numerous distinguished guests, including New York City Councilman David Greenfield, Rabbi Meir Yedid, Columbia Presbyterian Director of Surgery Dr. Lloyd Ratner, and several members of Renewal’s dedicated staff – Founder & Chairman Mendy Reiner, President Sendy Ornstein, Program Director Menachem Friedman, and Directors of Social Relations Dovid Schischa and Boruch Dombroff.

Upon entering the building, the dinner guests were invited to peruse the magnificent display of posters and materials telling the inspiring stories of Renewal’s donors, while enjoying tasty delicacies and fine wines. Later, after listening to Mr. Gindi’s riveting account, the guests heard a passionate address by master of ceremonies Mr. Mendy Reiner, Founder and Chairman of the Renewal. Mr. Reiner described the organization’s life-saving work by drawing upon the recent tragedy of the kidnapping and murder of three of our brothers in Israel, Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali.

“They (terrorists) take away life, and celebrate death,” Mr. Reiner somberly reflected. “We give life, and celebrate it.” Mr. Reiner proceeded to explain that the purpose of the evening was not merely to celebrate the lives that have already been saved, but also to loudly convey the powerful message of hope for the hundreds of patients still on their waiting list, anxiously waiting for the gift of life. And he announced with great pride and gratitude that in 2013, Renewal was responsible for roughly 25 percent of all altruistic kidney transplants in the U.S., and has made history by being the first agency to facilitate a kidney exchange between the U.S and a foreign country.

“With a wide network of kidney donors from all over the U.S.A, Canada, Mexico, the U.K, Israel, and Australia, together with Am Yisrael’s love for life, there is so much more that can be done,” Mr. Reiner told the crowd. He told that a recipient from Israel turned to Renewal for help and guidance on how he can copy the model of Renewal in Israel, and he has thus far facilitated nearly 20 transplants, in recognition of which he received an ‘Ot Hanasi,’ the President’s Award for volunteerism. Renewal’s success is not only saving lives, but inspiring others to do the same.

After thanking everyone responsible for arranging such a memorable night, Mr. Reiner sadly reminded the crowd that there are 250 people on Renewal’s waiting list, and another 100 will be added during the coming year. But he insisted that through the organization’s hard work and the generosity of its supporters, these patients can be helped. “Together,” he said, “with your generous partnerships – we can make it happen.”

Save a Life, Save the World

Kol hamekayem nefesh ahat miYisrael ke’ilu kiyem olam male – Whoever saves a Jewish life, it is as if he’s saved an entire world.” This was the message eloquently conveyed by the next speaker, New York City Councilman David Greenfield.

“What makes Renewal such an important organization?” the Councilman rhetorically asked. “Why does it have the support of Century 21, Harry Adjmi and Family, Eli and Jackie Yedid? Why is one the most prominent community members, Rabbi Meir Yedid, present tonight?” The answer, Councilman Greenfield asserted, lies in the rabbinic adage cited above: saving a single life is akin to saving the entire world. The Councilman explained that saving a person is equivalent to saving the world because, in the eyes of Jewish tradition, each and every person has the ability to change the world. Everyone, with his or her own unique personality and talents, has the potential to mold the world we live in. Indeed, by saving a life, you may be saving the world.

“This is why we’re here tonight,” Mr. Greenfield declared. “There are 25 people from the Syrian Community alone that have either given or received kidneys. Yet, there are still 250 people waiting on Renewal’s waiting list; all of them, slowly dying each and every day.”

The Councilman concluded his address by stating bluntly and succinctly that whether it’s donating a kidney, or giving a financial contribution to Renewal, “your support will literally save lives.”

Heroes of Hesed

Dr. Lloyd Ratner, Director of Surgeries at Columbia Presbyterian hospital, expressed warm words of thanks and appreciation to his colleagues at Renewal. Having worked with Renewal since its conception, he said, he could say with full confidence that they are the leading organization in the field.

Dr. Ratner’s remarks were followed by the keynote addressed delivered by Rabbi Meir Yedid, who described the people of Renewal as the world’s heroes of hesed, who opened his eyes to a phenomenon that he never knew existed.

“Forget that I didn’t know it existed,” he added. “I didn’t think it was possible to exist!” After reading and hearing the moving stories that Renewal has authored through its groundbreaking work, the rabbi said, he found it humbling to meet these heroes in person.

“You go out in the street, you think you’re doing okay,” Rabbi Yedid said. “Perhaps you write someone a $100 check, help someone cross the street, visit the sick in the hospital, etc. You might pat yourself on the back, saying, ‘Wow, you know, I really devote my life to others.’ Then you come to the West Deal Synagogue on a Wednesday night in July –and just get knocked on your head!” Upon seeing the righteous acts of the donors, he attested, one realizes that there is so much to learn, and so much more to do. “We haven’t even scratched the surface!” he exclaimed.

Citing from our traditional rabbinic sources, Rabbi Yedid eloquently elaborated upon the Torah value of hesed, of helping those in need of assistance, and noted the contrast between the Torah perspective and that of contemporary society. “We live in the generation of the ‘I’,” he observed. “The iPhone, the iPod, the iPad, etc. The unmistakable face of these common luxury products is that lowercase ‘i’.” The rabbi asserted that while this gimmick was assuredly the invention of some marketing specialist, nevertheless, it is the working of the hand of Gd, warning us about the “I’ society. We live in a generation that is very selfish, in which everything’s about “me.” As the rabbi described, it’s about “What can ‘I’ get out of life, how much money ‘I’ can make, the size of the house that ‘I’ can build. It’s all about me.” He then humorously quipped, “Perhaps they caught on to this dilemma. Maybe that’s why they came out with the Nintendo ‘We’… But again, they misspelled that one too, as it is spelled ‘Wii’ – two I’s!”

In direct contrast to this disturbing trend, Rabbi Yedid said, Renewal is all about selfless giving.    “We’re here to take care of others. ‘Im ani le’asmi, mah ani – If I am only for myself, then what am I?!’ We are here to take care of others; to give and to help others in need. We are here to become an ‘uppercase I’.”

The rabbi’s keynote address was followed by a scrumptious steak meal and a video presentation featuring Rabbi David Ozeri who spoke of the vital work done by Renewal and implored the guests to continue giving the organization their full support.

“Wishing You Many, Many More Years”

The unforgettable evening reached its climax when the time came to celebrate the accomplishments of the very special  guests of honor, Simon and Sandy Yedid.

The Yedid family have been close friends and devoted supporters of Renewal ever since the organization helped Sandy receive a new kidney. A.J. Gindi warmly thanked and praised the Yedid family on behalf of Renewal for their invaluable support and assistance, triggering a raucous round of applause from the audience. Mr. Gindi then invited Simon and Sandy’s daughter, Rochelle, to the podium. Rochelle shared her family’s extraordinary story, and expressed her heartfelt gratitude to Renewal and, especially, to the “mystery man” who anonymously donated his kidney in order to save Mrs. Yedid’s life. The crowd then heard from Rochelle’s brother, Eli, who himself has facilitated a number of transplants. From the bottom of his heart, Eli thanked Renewal for giving his mother renewed life and for their ongoing acts of loving kindness that are saving lives across the world.

The Yedid’s were presented with a large golden plaque bearing the following inscription:

“Wishing you many, many more years of success, happiness, and good life. From your friends at Renewal.

Deal Summer Event, July 2nd 2014.”

The guests returned home that evening with not only a profound sense of appreciation for Renewal, but with a profound sense of appreciation for the priceless gift of life, a gift which we should recognize and take full advantage of each and every moment we are blessed with it.

Renewal invites the community to take part in its efforts to save the lives of hundreds of kidney patients in desperate need of a transplant. To contribute to Renewal, or for more information about how you can get involved in its life-saving work, please visit www.life-renewal.org.  Each and every one of us can save a life, and thereby save the entire world.