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A Yom Kippur Bone Marrow Donation Story

I joined the bone marrow registry at a Gift of Life drive when I was a first year at UNC-Chapel Hill. The NC Hillel director at the time, Or Mars, also joined the registry that day. While I have been hoping ever since to be someone’s match, that day has yet to come. Though I’m not destined to be a match (yet), it’s remarkable how the stars have still seemed to align in other ways almost ten years later. I manage the RAC-Gift of Life partnership, and specifically, spend a lot of my time helping congregations across the US organize bone marrow drives on Yom Kippur. As you’ll read below, Or became a match for a young boy a few years after swabbing. Amazingly, his story is deeply intertwined with Yom Kippur, and to top it off, his wife is a rabbi at a participating Yom Kippur congregation this year!

Enjoy his story below, and be in touch with me to learn about all the ways to get involved with our partnership with Gift of Life.

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Is Your Congregation on the Map?

Our Yom Kippur Gift of Life drives recruitment effort is well under way. We are hardly into spring, yet already, over 30 congregations have committed to swabbing their cheeks this Yom Kippur! We’ve already had three matches from last year’s swabbing, and are looking forward to saving more lives this year with our goal of reaching 100 congregations. Here at the RAC, we wanted a visual of all the participating congregations, so we created a map to highlight congregations who have already committed to swabbing this Yom Kippur. We are excited to have such geographic diversity so far, we have congregations hailing from Washington State, Nebraska, North Carolina, and everywhere in between.

Is your congregation missing from the map? Not a problem, it’s not too late to learn more and get your congregation involved. Next Tuesday, April 29th at 7:30pm, we will be hosting another online info session. You’ll hear from RAC and Gift of Life staff; we’ll go over everything you need to know, and YK alum will be available to answer all your questions and concerns about organizing a drive on Yom Kippur. If you’d like to contact me directly or to get more information, fill out this form and I will be in touch soon.

One question I hear often is “Why Yom Kippur?” In case you missed this post, be sure to check out Rabbi Simonds’ beautiful words on how swabbing on Yom Kippur gave his congregation the opportunity to observe the day in a profoundly tangible way. This is definitely an opportunity you won’t want to miss out on.

So get in touch and join our info session. And help us to put 100 pins on our map!


Swabbing on Yom Kippur: What is a Life Worth Living?

Last Yom Kippur, 35 congregations partnered with the RAC and Gift of Life to run bone marrow registration drives. We swabbed over 3,000 people, and already, two matches have been found! We are in the midst of recruiting congregations for our Yom Kippur Gift of Life drives this year, and I’m quickly learning that the project’s best advocates are the clergy, temple staff and volunteers who worked so hard to make last year such a success.

Interested in joining us this year? Sign up here for more information, or register for one of our two upcoming informational webinars:

You’ll hear from RAC and Gift of Life staff; we’ll go over everything you need to know, and YK alum will be available to answer all your questions and concerns about organizing a drive on Yom Kippur. Read more…


Swab A Cheek, Inscribed For Life

It seems like the High Holy Days were just upon us, so it’s hard to believe that this week marks the beginning of our official recruitment for Yom Kippur Gift of Life drives this year. In our pilot last year, we set out to recruit 15 congregations to run drives on Yom Kippur. The project held many uncertainties; no one was sure if congregations or rabbis would buy into this project, or if the connection between Yom Kippur themes and saving a life would be self-evident. It turned out that many rabbis and congregations loved the project, and many were able to run with the program, with their imagination being the only limit on how to incorporate this mitzvah into the holiest day of the year. In the end, 35 congregations registered over 3,000 people on Yom Kippur, and just this week we learned of our first match! It hasn’t been 6 months and lives are already being saved.

This year, we are taking the successes and lessons learned last year to make this Yom Kippur even more meaningful and impactful. Our goal is to recruit 75 congregations across the US to participate in this year’s Yom Kippur drives.

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Reflections on Soul Justice, Social Justice, and Our First Interfaith Swabbing Initiative

This past holiday weekend saw the launch of the RAC’s first Martin Luther King, Jr. Initiative, a new, interfaith project with our partner Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. The Initiative works with Reform congregations to partner with local historically black churches in their community to host joint services commemorating Dr. King and offer cheek swabbing to join the bone marrow registry.

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Emily Rothstein

Introducing the Nothing But Nets Malaria Fellows!

Last week, the RAC and Nothing But Nets kicked off our semester long Malaria Fellowship (in partnership with the United Nations Foundation) for undergraduate students. We searched the country far and wide for the best candidates and narrowed it down to these ten students. Fellows are already busy building out their core group of students and generating interest on campus to help save lives from malaria through advocacy and fundraising this semester.

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Jay Feinberg Receives Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award at 72nd URJ North American Biennial

Last night, Gift of Life advisor Evie Goldfine – a recipient of a stem cell donation herself – accepted the Maurice N. Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award on behalf of founder and CEO of Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, Jay Feinberg. The award is in memory of Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, the executive director and President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations from 1943 – 1973; this award is the highest honor bestowed by the Reform Movement. Jay shares this award with other luminaries such as Michael J. Fox, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Rabbi Richard Hirsch, and Abba Eban.

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A New Malaria Fellowship Opportunity for College Students!

We’ve got big news coming from our partnership with Nothing But Nets! Together with the United Nations Foundation, we are launching a new Malaria Fellowship program for the most engaged, social justice-minded college students.

The Fellowship will run from January 2014 through April 2014. Fellows will learn about the plague of malaria in Africa, help build strong support for Nothing But Nets on campus, and become advocates in their own communities. Fellows will strengthen their leadership skills, network with UN Foundation and RAC staff and help save more lives by fighting malaria. Each Fellow will receive a stipend to offset activity costs on campus and an all-expense paid trip to DC for training Feb. 1st-3rd.

The Fellowship breaks down the semester in order to offer students comprehensize training in grassroots organizing, fundraising and advocacy. In January, Fellows will organize and build relationships on campus while beginning to build awareness and create a core of student activists at their schools. February kicks off with a trip to DC, where we’ll train students on legislative efforts relating to malaria, teach effective techniques for lobbying Congress, then finish the trip with a visit to Capitol Hill! In March, Fellows continue to build on their advocacy skills and meet with their members of Congress in their districts, and we’ll finish the semester with campus-wide events leading up to World Malaria Day (April 25).

Sounds pretty exciting, right? Head on over to our fellowship page to learn more and apply. We’re taking applications until December 4th. Not a college student? Not a problem, help share this opportunity with your friends and family members, who may know a college student, or be one themselves!  Here’s a sample Facebook post:

Big news: The United Nations Foundation & the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism are launching a Malaria Fellowship with Nothing But Nets! This semester-long program aims to increase awareness about malaria among college students & empower them to act in support of malaria prevention, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Applications close December 4th.

As always, if you haven’t had a chance to ask your members of Congress to continue supporting anti-malaria initiatives, our action alerts make it quick and easy for you. And of course consider sending a net to a family in Camp Nyarugusu in Tanzania!