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Brooklyn, NY - Giving The Gift Of Life: Two Orthodox Men Share A Firsthand Account Of A Kidney Transplant

Published on: November 27, 2013 11:37 AM
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In this Nov. 24, 2013 photo Mr. Joel Labin (R) meets with the recipient Robert Sendzischew (L) that he donated a kidney to at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, NY. (Photo: Rafael Lopez JR/VINnews.com)In this Nov. 24, 2013 photo Mr. Joel Labin (R) meets with the recipient Robert Sendzischew (L) that he donated a kidney to at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, NY. (Photo: Rafael Lopez JR/VINnews.com)

Brooklyn, NY - After years of advocating for kidney donation, a Brooklyn man has given another area resident the ultimate gift:  that of a healthy kidney.

Rabbi Yoel Usher Labin, a 31 year old Borough Park resident and a father of five, has long been involved with Renewal, which assists those who are suffering with kidney disease, and in helping raise awareness for kidney donation within the Jewish community.

“I have done writing, marketing and participated in many events for Renewal,” Rabbi Labin told VIN News.  “Years ago I wrote an article for them in a Yiddish newspaper and I personally have gotten five phone calls from kidney donors who told me that they decided to donate a kidney because of the article I had written.”

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Rabbi Labin wears many hats, working as a freelance writer and a marketing advisor, as well as serving as the executive director of Dror and an active board member of Achim Bederech.

After years of urging others to consider kidney donation, Rabbi Labin decided recently that it was his turn to step up to the plate.

“I am an activist, always telling people what to do, how to do it and that is nice, but was I going to spend my whole life just telling other people what to do without doing it myself?”

Rabbi Joel Labin meeting with Yehsiva University Rabbis days before the planned kidney donation. (R-L Boruch Dombroff, director of special project at renewal, Mendy Reiner, Founder and Chairman at Renewal, Rabbi Schachter YU, Rabbi Labin kidney donor, Rabbi Willig YU and Rabbi Neuburger YURabbi Joel Labin meeting with Yehsiva University Rabbis days before the planned kidney donation. (R-L Boruch Dombroff, director of special project at renewal, Mendy Reiner, Founder and Chairman at Renewal, Rabbi Schachter YU, Rabbi Labin kidney donor, Rabbi Willig YU and Rabbi Neuburger YU

Having spent so much time working with Renewal prior to his own surgery, Rabbi Labin was fully aware of the difficulties that face patients who suffer from kidney disease.

“People who aren’t familiar with renal failure don’t understand what it is like to be on dialysis,” explained Rabbi Labin. “It is a slow death, with a life expectancy of just five years for dialysis patients.”

“I spent a nice few days at Mt. Sinai Hospital for testing, to make sure that I was in good health and that my kidneys were fully functioning so that my one kidney would be able to do the work of both after the transplant,” said Rabbi Labin.  “If people are willing to do things that take a toll on their bodies for sport, why not do it for a mitzvah?”

In the days prior to his surgery, Rabbi Labin went to several rabbonim from different segments of the Jewish community for brachos, including the Karlsburger Rebbe, the Rachmistrivka Rebbe, R’ Yosef Rosenblum, R’ Herschel Schachter and R’ Mordechai Willig.

“It wasn’t that I needed their blessings because I knew I was going to do a mitzvah,” explained Rabbi Labin.  “I want to raise awareness for kidney donation and I want people to know about it so I went to both heimishe and Modern Orthodox rabbonim.”

The day of the surgery coincided with Rabbi Labin’s own birthday. 

In an email sent out to his friends, Rabbi Labin asked for tefillos for both himself and his recipient, Robert Sendzischew of Brooklyn.

“Today the 18th of Kislev is my birthday, the very lucky day I have received a treasure, the brilliant gift of life.  Today, Thursday,18th of Kislev, November 21st, I’ll be the lucky one again, by giving the gift of life to a fellow human being by donating to him my own G-d-given kidney. Today, two different people will be walking into the hospital; one of them in a healthy condition, while the other one critical and terribly ill. But at the end, they’ll both be walking out in a healthful condition. How wonderful is G-d’s phenomenal creation, which has planted in me a spare organ, an extra piece of actual life; life, to give away life. I’m thrilled, and I’m happy, what a day!  Please be mispallel for me : Yoel Usher Yeshaya ben Malka Idei and the recipient Reuven Shlomo ben Fruma.”

The 18th of Kislev also proved to be a significant one for Sendzischew:  it was the day that his only son put on tefillin for the first time.

“My wife and I had an event in my son’s school with his classmates, rabbeim and some of our friends,” said Sendzischew, who, despite having been on dialysis since last May, had only been on Renewal’s transplant list for a few days before he was matched with Rabbi Labin.  “My son was the chazan and I showed him how to put on tefillin.  He gave a d’var Torah and I had an aliyah.  My son’s rebbe spoke about him, and after davening, we had a big breakfast to celebrate.”

After a successful four and a half hour surgery, Rabbi Labin and Sendzischew finally had the opportunity to meet for the first time.

“His recovery was faster than mine in the first few days, so he came to see me,” said Rabbi Labin.  “I don’t remember exactly what he said because of the painkillers but he hugged me and told me that he had no words and that I saved his life.”

“I didn’t know Mr. Labin at all before this but he changed my life and my whole family’s life,” added Sendzischew.  “He gave me an opportunity to extend my life and have the opportunity to have more time with my son and my wife.”

After four days, Rabbi Labin was released from the hospital.  Sendizschew continues to recuperate at Mount Sinai.

According to Mendy Reiner, founder and chairman of Renewal, the statistics regarding kidney donation within the Orthodox Jewish community are quite impressive.

“While the average wait time for a kidney in the United States is five to seven years, with Renewal the wait is approximately six to eight months,” said Reiner.  “Renewal was responsible for 25 percent of the altruistic kidney donations in the United States in 2012 and we expect the numbers to be even higher in 2013.  It is beautiful to see that the Jewish community, which represents one half of a percent of the population, has been responsible for one quarter of the altruistic kidney transplants which took place in the United States last year.”

Despite the inherent difficulties of undergoing surgery, Rabbi Labin strongly urged others to consider kidney donation.

“Chesed is the common denominator between all different parts of the Jewish community,” observed Rabbi Labin.  “Being able to undergo serious surgery and spend a few weeks recuperating gives someone the gift of life.  It is a few days of pain and it isn’t easy but it is a month of recovery, maybe less, and for the recipient it brings a lifetime of good health.”

According to Sendzischew, the transplant literally gives him a new lease on life.

“My son’s Bar Mitzvah is a month from now and Mr. Labin gave me the amazing and unexpected opportunity to share this milestone and many more with my son and my wife.  Each chesed and mitzvah that I do will be on Mr. Labin’s account and, G-d willing, this kidney will give me a long life where I can do much mitzvos and chesed and be able to share nachas with my wife and my son.”

 Rabbi Joel Labin recuperating at Mt. Sinai Hospital on Nov. 24, 2013 (Photo: Rafael Lopez JR/VINnews.com) Rabbi Joel Labin recuperating at Mt. Sinai Hospital on Nov. 24, 2013 (Photo: Rafael Lopez JR/VINnews.com)
In this Nov. 24, 2013 photo Rabbi Joel Labin (R) meets and learns with the recipient Robert Sendzischew (L) that he donated a kidney to at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, NY. (Photo: Rafael Lopez JR/VINnews.com)In this Nov. 24, 2013 photo Rabbi Joel Labin (R) meets and learns with the recipient Robert Sendzischew (L) that he donated a kidney to at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, NY. (Photo: Rafael Lopez JR/VINnews.com)

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1

 Nov 27, 2013 at 11:47 AM Anonymous Says:

Wow, no words to describe. We who are in good health, should all look to see if we can donate a kidney, platelets, or even just a pint of blood. It really can save lives!!

2

 Nov 27, 2013 at 12:16 PM Anonymous Says:

wow what a tremendous kiddush hashem !mi kimacho yisroel
i wish the media would pick up on the chesed and charity in our community and splash it on its front pages
as opposed to the more common negative front page news they always find

3

 Nov 27, 2013 at 01:00 PM Just Thinking Says:

Usually when there is news is bashing someone everybody runs to write something but when it comes to this kind of news the blog is empty. Where are you guys?

4

 Nov 27, 2013 at 01:28 PM sheyash-boi Says:

"Mi Keamcho Yisroel"
This is unbelievable, I'm so moved and emotional with this, THIS IS TEACHING US SO MUCH.
In our days when the public media is so against us, is a must to publicize this as much as possible. "Lharbois Kvod Shomayim".

5

 Nov 27, 2013 at 01:32 PM MAYERFREUND Says:

LOOKING FOR CHESED? TO FIND IT GO TO THE CHASIDIM.

6

 Nov 27, 2013 at 02:25 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
MAYERFREUND Says:

LOOKING FOR CHESED? TO FIND IT GO TO THE CHASIDIM.

I would just like to remind "Mayerfreund "that many people other than Chasidim have donated kidneys. Don't make this selfless chesed a chasidishe one but an Individual one.

7

 Nov 27, 2013 at 02:20 PM mossad Says:

I'm not that religious, but I look up alot up to those who do Chesed, such like Satmar, which have all these big chesed organizations etc.

I'm so impressed every time I hear these stories and get really emotional... to give away a kidney for a stranger, its the ultimate chesed and selfless act a human being can do.

I'm amazed, and Mr. Labin, you just made me cry!

8

 Nov 27, 2013 at 03:03 PM Big-Masmid Says:

As Chanukah is arriving:

Lets look into our hearts and our souls, and take out all the Gashmius and remember what Hashem wants from us is to be close to Him. How to be close to Him? To make ourselves close to Him, we have to get rid of all the extra baggage, all the wrong feelings, all the wrong desires, all the Gashmius that is forbidden, and even the Gashmius that is not so forbidden, but that gets in our way of surving Hashem.

We must become spiritual, and must come closer to Hashem. Whether we learn and Daven or do Chessed, we have to do something spiritual that will push out of our minds and our hearts the Egel HaZahav thats preventing Moshiach from redeming us.

Happy Chanukah to all of Klall Yisroel.

Remember every donut has 500 caleries or more, enjoy!

9

 Nov 27, 2013 at 03:20 PM chayamom Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

I would just like to remind "Mayerfreund "that many people other than Chasidim have donated kidneys. Don't make this selfless chesed a chasidishe one but an Individual one.

True all kinds have donated kidneys but the founder of Renewel is chasidish.
No matter - each time I hear a story such as this I am blown away. It is so heartwarming to read or hear about yidden doing positive things!

10

 Nov 27, 2013 at 04:18 PM shulem Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

I would just like to remind "Mayerfreund "that many people other than Chasidim have donated kidneys. Don't make this selfless chesed a chasidishe one but an Individual one.

you're 100% right. this is not a chasidishe act of chesed but rather an individual one. but this should be a two way street next time you see in the paper that a chasid commited fraud, you should also look at it as an individual crime not a chasidishe one.

11

 Nov 27, 2013 at 05:10 PM Chasidim didn't invent chesed and they hold no monopoly on it! Says:

Reply to #5  
MAYERFREUND Says:

LOOKING FOR CHESED? TO FIND IT GO TO THE CHASIDIM.

The above comment is foolish, ignorant, and offensive.

Jewish people from various groups excel in chesed.

Our Rabbis tell us that one of the simanim of Yidden in general is gomlei chassodim, that they do chesed. That is not just one specific type of Jews, but all Jews! Unless you think that the only Jews are Hasidim.

The operations in the story took place in Mt. Sinai hospital. Who do you think worked so hard to build Mt. Sinai, Beth Israel, Maimonides, Montefoire and other Jewish hospitals in various places years ago? Hint: It was not Chasidim.

Who gives millions, hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals to help sick people? Bloomberg alone has given so many millions, maybe hundreds of millions, if not more. And so many other Jews have given so much. How many of them are Chasidim? Not many, if any.

FYI, Chasidim did not invent chesed and they have no monopoly on it

12

 Nov 27, 2013 at 05:14 PM bayy718871 Says:

Wow this is truly amazing

13

 Nov 27, 2013 at 05:27 PM Renewal volunteer Says:

This organization (& RCCS) are the best. I volunteer for Renewal & it is a zchus to do so. I am not healthy enough (yet!) to donate a kidney so I do other things, and this organization is truly remarkable. I got the Tehillim email & said Tehillim for both the recipent & the donor, so it is very nice to read this article & see both men looking KA"H well.

If you can't donate there are many things you can do. Reach out to them, they are the most wonderful people.

14

 Nov 27, 2013 at 07:16 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
Chasidim didn't invent chesed and they hold no monopoly on it! Says:

The above comment is foolish, ignorant, and offensive.

Jewish people from various groups excel in chesed.

Our Rabbis tell us that one of the simanim of Yidden in general is gomlei chassodim, that they do chesed. That is not just one specific type of Jews, but all Jews! Unless you think that the only Jews are Hasidim.

The operations in the story took place in Mt. Sinai hospital. Who do you think worked so hard to build Mt. Sinai, Beth Israel, Maimonides, Montefoire and other Jewish hospitals in various places years ago? Hint: It was not Chasidim.

Who gives millions, hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals to help sick people? Bloomberg alone has given so many millions, maybe hundreds of millions, if not more. And so many other Jews have given so much. How many of them are Chasidim? Not many, if any.

FYI, Chasidim did not invent chesed and they have no monopoly on it

Yea..you may be right to a certain extent...but we all know who you are....and where your heart lies...............a child can see through you...

15

 Nov 27, 2013 at 07:17 PM ModernLakewoodGuy Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

wow what a tremendous kiddush hashem !mi kimacho yisroel
i wish the media would pick up on the chesed and charity in our community and splash it on its front pages
as opposed to the more common negative front page news they always find

thousands of non jewish people donate organs every year. The majority of them are organ donors, so when they are declared dead, 3-9 people can benefit from their organs. Versus orthodox jews who are primarily not organ donors and they get buried with all those good organs going to waste. Where is the kiddush hashem there?

16

 Nov 27, 2013 at 08:28 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
MAYERFREUND Says:

LOOKING FOR CHESED? TO FIND IT GO TO THE CHASIDIM.

This and that satmar rov zatsal saved yiddiskeit in America is the two biggest untrue myths and propoganda of the century. As a Satmar chusid I feel deeply offended the way you represent chasidim with such foolishness and ignorance. I know personally Rabbi Labin as a friend and family, he would despise a comment like this and people who have the way of thinking like you is usually not the kind of person who has ahavas Yisroel to such an extend to give away an organ of your selfish body to unknown fellow jew.

17

 Nov 27, 2013 at 08:29 PM mossad Says:

Reply to #15  
ModernLakewoodGuy Says:

thousands of non jewish people donate organs every year. The majority of them are organ donors, so when they are declared dead, 3-9 people can benefit from their organs. Versus orthodox jews who are primarily not organ donors and they get buried with all those good organs going to waste. Where is the kiddush hashem there?

Are you out of your mind? Why is Yayin nesech asur? Isn't that a chilul hashem? No! Because hashem said so, and he also prohibited nituchei meisim... are you really in Lakewood?

18

 Nov 27, 2013 at 10:31 PM Brian Says:

Reply to #15  
ModernLakewoodGuy Says:

thousands of non jewish people donate organs every year. The majority of them are organ donors, so when they are declared dead, 3-9 people can benefit from their organs. Versus orthodox jews who are primarily not organ donors and they get buried with all those good organs going to waste. Where is the kiddush hashem there?

You simply have no idea what you're talking about. 99% of [post-mortem] organ donors DON'T have their organs harvested because they are not viable for transplant. There are well over 100,000,000 Americans who signed to donate and there are only a little over 100,000 people who need organs. The reason why there are severe shortages is because the majority of "organ donors" are never going to end up donating their organs.

19

 Nov 30, 2013 at 10:46 AM PinchasB Says:

Reply to #4  
sheyash-boi Says:

"Mi Keamcho Yisroel"
This is unbelievable, I'm so moved and emotional with this, THIS IS TEACHING US SO MUCH.
In our days when the public media is so against us, is a must to publicize this as much as possible. "Lharbois Kvod Shomayim".

My dear friend, don't just be so moved; donate a kidney yourself, to me! I desperately need one. Among other things, I want to go to my grandsons bar mitzvah next year. I'm sure you would be blessed for it. Contact me at pbl@iname.com.

20

 Nov 30, 2013 at 05:13 PM newtransplant Says:

I just hope the UK starts allowing us to have specific person donations soon. At the moment either you must prove that you have known each other for a long time or you can donate to a pool that gives your kidney to whoever is next on the list and you have no control over it. For a yid to donate to another yid whom he does not know is currently not allowed.......

21

 Dec 01, 2013 at 03:26 AM PinchasB Says:

With all your comments about how wonderful this was, would one of you step up and donate a kidney to me...please. I am on dialysis and in desperate need. A) it's slowly killing me, B) I want to go cross country to my grandson,s bar mitzvah, and C thru Z) I want to live a normal life for the rest of my days. Do this mitzvah and you will be truly blessed. Contact me at pbl@iname.com.

22

 Dec 01, 2013 at 08:45 PM solkeys Says:

Reply to #21  
PinchasB Says:

With all your comments about how wonderful this was, would one of you step up and donate a kidney to me...please. I am on dialysis and in desperate need. A) it's slowly killing me, B) I want to go cross country to my grandson,s bar mitzvah, and C thru Z) I want to live a normal life for the rest of my days. Do this mitzvah and you will be truly blessed. Contact me at pbl@iname.com.

Why don't you contact Renewal?

23

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