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Jay Feinberg, Founder of Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation Returns to Boro Park to Promote Life Saving Programs

IMG_2153.jpgJay Feinberg, founder and Executive Director of Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation of Boca Raton FL, and a 13 year transplant survivor, returned to a community that was deeply involved in trying to save his life. He has since founded and developed the nation’s only Jewish bone marrow donor registry. Although Mr. Feinberg was in Boro Park to promote his organization’s bone marrow donor registry and a new walk-in cord blood program, it served as an emotional reunion with some of the leaders who had coordinated bone marrow testing drives on his behalf in 1994 when he was battling leukemia. These blood drives were part of a four year international campaign, Friends of Jay, to find a suitable bone marrow match for Feinberg. After four years, 60,000 donors had been recruited, yielding matches for hundreds of patients in similar circumstances as well as a successful bone marrow match for Mr. Feinberg.

Mr. Feinberg first met with Mr. Itche Fleischer, a highly respected community leader who heads the Bobov Bikur Cholim. Mr. Fleischer and Mr. Feinberg had not met since Jay’s parents were in Boro Park years ago when they were searching for a bone marrow match for their son. Mr. Feinberg next met with Rabbi Shmuel Steinhardter and Mrs. Schoenblum of the Bikur Cholim of Boro Park. Mrs. Scheonblum, the blood drive coordinator for the Bikur Cholim of Boro Park, coordinated their blood drive on Jay’s behalf 13 years ago. Mr. Feinberg also met with Mr. Doug Bailin of the Sephardic Bikur Cholim. The goal of all these meetings was to brief the community leaders on the enormous expansion of Gift of Life’s bone marrow transplant program (90 in the past 12 months) as well as its recently launched walk-in cord blood donation program in conjunction with Maimonides Medical Center.

This new joint program with a medical institution that serves one of the largest Jewish communities in the US is a major milestone for Gift of Life which serves as North America’s Jewish umbilical cord blood bank. Cord blood remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following birth after the cord blood is cut. Although it is usually discarded, cord blood is an extremely valuable resource because it is rich in blood forming stem cells. After a baby’s birth, this blood can be collected and frozen to potentially save a life in the future.

The walk-in cord blood program is now available at Maimonides Medical Center for mothers to register when they arrive at the hospital to deliver their babies. Coordinators are available in the Labor and Delivery Unit Sunday-Thursday during daytime hours.

Prior to the expanded arrangement with Maimonides, the Gift of Life cord blood program was coordinated through the obstetrician’s offices, including Boro Park OBGYN. Given the overwhelming response that Gift of Life received from mothers and from other obstetricians in Boro Park seeking to join the Gift of Life network of collectors, the organization decided to start a new initiative that would allow expectant mothers to decide to donate their cord blood when they deliver their babies.

“It is extremely important to inform the community that the future of saving lives lies in the cord blood program,” said Mr. Feinberg. The uniqueness of cord blood transplants is that the stem cells retrieved from this blood can take on new functions in order to save a persons’ life. Additionally, unlike bone marrow transplants, cord blood transplants do not need the recipient and the donor to have perfectly matching tissue cells. “The community leaders were extremely responsive to the new Gift of Life program and understand the importance of expanding the cord blood program in order to maximize our ability to save lives,” said Feinberg.

Gift of Life facilitates bone marrow, blood stem cell and umbilical cord blood transplants for children and adults suffering from life-threatening illnesses around the world.  Its services include transplant coordination, donor recruitment, patient advocacy and public education.  Through targeted recruitment in Jewish communities throughout North America, Gift of Life strives to overcome the loss of bloodlines following the Holocaust, a consequence that has made the search for genetically matched donors particularly difficult for Jewish patients. 

3 Responses

  1. my brother in law donated through this program and literally gave life to a women. i don’t think a lot of people know how easy it is to donate. there should be more of an awareness to the jewish community about it.

  2. I am so happy to see this article. My husband and I gave blood samples 13 years ago in Israel, and I often wondered whatever happened. My children, who were young then, drew pictures for Jay and I sent them to him. Jay should be healthy and strong until 120!

  3. Jay,you saved my life this year and a close friend’s life three years ago.From the public forum I thank you.I have never met you nor have I met my donor.I look forward to the annual banquet in May.
    To all those reading this ,please register so that you can help others with the gift of life.I cant think of any smaller inconvience that can save a life.Yes it is an inconvience,but please look at the benefits.

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