Nearly 15 years ago, Gift of Life was established as a grass roots effort to increase the number of donors of Jewish ancestry in international registries. Since that time, Gift of Life's recruitment model has been recognized as one of the most effective in the world in recruiting donors from a minority ethnic group. Thanks to targeted recruitment in Jewish communities throughout North America, Gift of Life has assembled the largest Jewish bone marrow donor registry outside of Israel, a resource that has significantly improved the chances that donors will be found for Jewish patients needing transplants throughout the world.
Now, Gift of Life’s specialized recruitment priorities will reach an entirely new Jewish community with the launch of Gift of Life Australia
According to a report by the Jewish Agency for Israel, Australian Jews comprise the tenth largest Jewish community in the world, with roughly 100,000 Jews who make up approximately two percent of the world’s Jewish population. Though relatively small, it has emerged as one of the most vibrant of Jewish communities in the world and represents an exciting opportunity to further increase the participation of Jewish volunteers on the international donor registry. Gift of Life Australia will be the first coordinated initiative dedicated to recruiting Australian Jews to volunteer as bone marrow donors.
The program is headed by Rabbi Dovid Slavin, Executive Director of the Sydney Yeshiva Rabbinical College and Shula Endrey-Walder, whose personal dedication to Gift of Life began over ten years ago during the search for a match for Gift of Life’s Founder & Executive Director, Jay Feinberg. Gift of Life Australia will work in partnership with the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, Chabad and Wolper Jewish Hospital to increase the awareness and participation of Jewish donors living in Australia and will benefit patients everywhere. Donors recruited will be listed on the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR), which ranks tenth in size out of 58 donor registries in the world.
According to Sally Gordon, Executive Officer of the ABMDR, “Shula Endrey-Walder has made an enormous contribution to the ABMDR by facilitating the enrollment of over 3000 Jewish donors in New South Wales since 1994. Jay Feinberg and Gift of Life in the USA are well known around the world, having provided support and assistance to so many people. This linking of programs is such an important initiative.”
The program recently attracted the attention of Israel's Chief Rabbi, Yona Metzger. After learning about the program during a recent visit in Australia with Rabbi Slavin and Shula, he offered his blessing and drank a L'chaim to its success.
“Gift of Life has always been an international organization, providing health and hope to patients around the world. With the launch of Gift of Life Australia, we can now bring our successful recruitment model to other parts of the world.” said Jay Feinberg. He continued, “I want to thank Shula and Rabbi Slavin for their enthusiastic dedication to this program. I am confident that their efforts will make a real difference, not only in spreading awareness and participation within Australia’s thriving Jewish community, but to the patients and their families who will be helped as a result. I would also like to thank the team at the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry for being so receptive to this initiative, particularly Sally Gordon and Dr. Jeremy Chapman.”
Gift of Life Australia officially kicked off on August 16 at a special presentation held at the Hakoah Club, a Jewish venue at Bondi Beach in Sydney. Michael Faust, who recently traveled from Sydney to New York to meet his blood stem cell donor, Michael Striegold at the Partners for Life Gala participated by sharing his experience as a transplant recipient, highlighting the importance of continued efforts to increase the size of the registry.
“After everything Gift of Life did for me and my family, I was thrilled to be involved with the launch of Gift of Life Australia. Without their remarkable efforts, I may not be here today”, said Michael. “This is a wonderful opportunity for me to repay my gratitude to an incredible organization and it really gives me great pleasure to offer my continued support as we work to raise awareness within the Jewish community here in Australia.”
For more information about Gift of Life Australia, please visit www.giftoflifeaustralia.org.au.