Shabbat Shalom ~ Lech Licha

Dear WJC Family,

It’s Mitzvah Weekend at WJC! I am particularly excited for Friday night’s 8:30 program “The Mitzvah of Organ Donation,” which will follow our Shabbat evening service featuring the Rhythm & Ruach Band, starting at 7:30. For personal reasons that they will be sharing, organ donation is close to the hearts of our two panelists, Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman of Larchmont Temple and long time WJC member Andrea Danziger. I will be moderating the discussion, as this topic is very important to me as well.

My first experience with organ donation was with a congregant in Cherry Hill, NJ who had so many heart attacks he referred to them as episodes. “Rabbi, I had another episode last night.” “Just to be clear, Michael, when you say episode, you mean heart attack, right?” “Yes, you could call it that.” We prayed together the night he was to receive a new heart and when he woke up from surgery. Michael z’l got several bonus years with his children and grandchildren thanks to organ donation.

But I really came to know about the mitzvah of organ donation a few years later when I discovered Lifenet Health in Virginia Beach, VA. I took a tour of their facility as part of a leadership Seminar I was participating in. I was so impressed by their commitment to values so aligned with core Jewish values like respect for the deceased, viewing every part of a person as the whole person and pikuach nefesh (saving life). Every year I brought my shul’s teen group to visit Lifenet so that the teens could learn these important Jewish principles and, hopefully, get them signed up as donors. As part of our conversation Friday night, I will share more about the lessons I learned at Lifenet and how they became frighteningly relevant to me when my 38-year old cousin Rebecca was placed on the list for a liver transplant. Sadly, that story does not have a happy ending. We will also debunk some common misperceptions about organ donation, Judaism and organ donation, and any other questions people have.

Mitzvah Weekend will continue Sunday morning with many opportunities to participate in mitzvot like cooking for our “Hesed Freezer” and a family craft project. You can also come with donations to several organizations: Community Resource Center, Sharing Shelf, AFYA Foundation, Little Libraries and Pitch In for Baseball & Softball. For a complete list of items being collected, click here. We will also be signing up volunteers to participate in a day of rebuilding with the Fuller Center, a special project for MLK weekend—January 15, 2023.  Adults and older teens can participate by repairing homes in our local area. No experience necessary!

And of course, we’ll be having all of our regularly scheduled mitzvot as well—including celebrating Nate Rudich’s bar mitzvah Saturday morning – Mazal tov Eric and Beth, Torah learning before morning services and during afternoon services on Saturday, and excellent learning at religious school and at our 5th and 6th grade b’nai mitzvah programming. So many great mitzvah opportunities! Now that’s a community worth giving a blessing!

See you in shul for mitzvot!

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