Join Registry Give Now
Join Registry Give Now

Howard Jonas's Best Investment

Jul 27, 2003 by Gift of Life News

Dear Friends,

A lot of you think of me as a guy with a big heart. I wish it were true. In point of fact my wife has a big heart, and a lot of people around me have big hearts, and I just get the credit for being a nice guy. Actually, I am a pretty bottom line guy. I really prefer getting a good return on an investment to simply smelling flowers.

That is why I am so enthusiastic about the Gift of Life Marrow Registry. It costs $80 to test a potential bone marrow donor and put them in the registry. Dinner Chairman Warren Spector, the President of Bear Stearns, spent a little over three million dollars last year testing people in order to find a marrow donor for his sister Ruthie, who was, thank G-d, eventually helped by a transplant. In the year since then, 30,000 names were added to the database, and 36 people were able to find donors. This means that the lives of 36 people who would have otherwise died were saved. The approximate cost of a saved life is $80,000 per person. But the average donor is young and remains in the bank until 60 years of age, often for more than 20 years. If you extend out the numbers, this means that every $4,000 donated to the bone marrow foundation saves one life.

I don't think I have ever saved someone's life, nor do I think that many other people have, but empirically for every $4,000 donated to this dinner, you will save one life. That is basically the best investment I have ever heard of in my life. Usually extraordinary investment opportunities like this are limited to insiders, who risk prison to get in on such a deal, but no one who comes to the dinner will be arrested, and you can save as many lives as you wish! In addition, you will have a nice meal with congenial people, and have the opportunity to see bone marrow donors meet the recipients of their life-giving gift for the first time.

We suffer from a strange problem, which I find most perplexing. We Jews have a charity for everything: sickness, books, money for yeshivas and colleges. We raise funds to build shuls and then to build new shuls next to the old ones. We support hospitals and buy ambulances and the equipment to run them, yet the odds of finding a marrow donor are very long.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people with cancer who could be saved with a bone marrow match die, especially since a Jewish person of Eastern European descent who needs a bone marrow transplant can only be matched by another Jew of Eastern European descent. However, only 75,000 Jewish donors are listed in the marrow foundation. How can this be? We do all sorts of chesed, we deliver food to the poor and to new mothers and to shiva houses, but 99% of us have not been tested to see if we could save a life.

This situation must be rectified before any other good deeds are undertaken. In fact, my son, Mishi, was tested and is a match for a patient needing a transplant. Our scriptures teach us that saving a life is of primary importance. By coming to this dinner, you will be supporting the Gift of Life Marrow Registry. The Rambam taught that giving a person an income is the highest form of tzedakah, and we try to follow this teaching at IDT. But the Rambam didn't have bone marrow transplants in his day, and if he had, I am certain he would have said this was the most important form of tzedakah.

For all these reasons, I am delighted to invite you to participate in this dinner and to join Debbie and me, the guests of honor, in supporting this critically important mission.


Howard Jonas