MLK Day Interfaith Swabbing



When Jay Feinberg was diagnosed with leukemia in 1991, he needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. Because bone marrow type is linked to DNA, and therefore one’s ancestry, as an Ashkenazi Jew, Jay had less than a 5% chance of finding a match. It took years of searching for Jay’s friends and family to find a donor for him. Having made a full recovery, Jay has made it his life’s mission to help others find their match. Thanks to his organization and our partner, Gift of Life, Jews now have a 70% chance finding a life-saving match.

Despite the good news, the work is far from finished. Non-white minority groups face similar, daunting odds that Jews faced before Gift of Life began its work. In the International Bone Marrow Registry, 73% of potential donors are white. Minorities break down as follows:

  • 9% Hispanic or Latino
  • 8% African American or Black
  • 7% Asians
  • 3% Multiracial
  • 1% American Indian/Alaska Native

So if an African American, Latino, Native American or Asian child needed a bone marrow transplant to survive a leukemia diagnosis, that child would have a less than 18% chance of finding a match. Compare this with the odds of a non-minority white child, who would have an 85% chance of finding a match.

That’s why here at the RAC we are initiating a new project on Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend. We are seeking congregations that will partner with historically black churches or black colleges in their communities to hold joint services or other programs commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. The two groups will educate participants about the importance of bone marrow registration in minority communities and offer an opportunity to swab in to the registry.

This is a great opportunity for congregations that are interested in interfaith activities and hands-on social action projects. As this is a brand new program, the sky is the limit in thinking of interesting, creative ways to bring this program to your community. Interested in participating? Call me at 202.387.2800 or email me. I will give you all the tools and knowledge you need to make this a success!

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Veronica Grant

About Veronica Grant

Veronica Grant is the Program Coordinator for the URJ partner, the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, and formally Nothing But Nets. She is from Asheville, NC and graduated from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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