One of the two bone marrow drives that Calah Congregation has
conducted in Howard County so far saved a life when a donor
identified during the drive donated bone marrow that was
successfully transplanted into a matching patient.
Calah Congregation conducted the drives to assist patients whose
own marrow is no longer viable and who desperately need a
transplant that matches their blood and DNA characteristics. Bone
marrow transplants are used to treat such diseases as leukemia,
lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and fanconi anemia (FA), a genetic
disease affecting Ashkenazi Jews as well as many other nationalities.
More than 20 known genes can cause bone marrow failure in FA patients and one of them took the life of Danielle Sacks, the daughter of the congregation’s Spiritual Leader, Robert Sacks, in November 2006. However, she would have died 22 years earlier were it not for a bone marrow transplant from her brother, Sean, in 1984.
In 2012, Robert asked for and got permission to conduct a bone marrow drive at the Jewish Federation of Howard County’s annual Purim Palooza to collect DNA samples for potential bone marrow transplants from volunteer donors at the event. He was assisted by congregation members and others.
Overcoming Steep Odds
Matching nonfamily donors to patients genetically is a rare but necessary tool in combating bone marrow diseases, but the Calah Congregation drive overcame those odds when one of the 2012 donors, Jason Fischbein, a father of two from Clarksville, became a lifesaving match for a patient several years later, when he provided bone marrow transplants from both his hips.
Calah conducted the drive to support the Palooza’s tikkun olam, helping to perfect the world a little more through mitzvot. During the drive, DNA samples were collected through simple cheek swabs and volunteer donors were entered into an international database. The Calah Congregation drive was one of 2,000 similar donor drives held annually in the U.S. through DKMS, an international nonprofit organization with offices in New York City, as well as in Germany, Poland and the U.K. DKMS has been dedicated to collecting and registering potential DNA donors since its founding 25 years ago in Germany. DKMS currently has registered more than 7.7 million donors worldwide, including almost one million donors in the U.S.
Mr. Fischbein’s successful bone marrow donation is one of more than 3,200 DKMS donor matches in the U.S. that have provided patients around the world with a second chance at life. According to the Talmud, whoever saves a life is considered to have saved the world. We hope others will follow Mr. Fischbein’s altruism and help to possibly provide the gift of life, ”L’Chaim,” to a patient in need as Calah plans to conduct more bone marrow drives in the future.
Calah Tzedakah Fund
Tzedakah and Mitzvot
To learn about the organizations Calah Congregation supports through tikkun olam, visit here.