A good news story, new digital Light archives, ‘HateBraker’

Jon Hoffman recently donated peripheral blood stem cells to a woman with leukemia.  

Ellen Futterman, Editor

A perfect match

Monday was a sobering day (boy, is that an understatement). First, the news of the horrific mass murder of 59 people in Las Vegas, along with more than 500 others injured, and then later the death of a favorite rocker and Traveling Wilbury, Tom Petty, at the age of 66.

So when some “nice news” came my way, I pounced. It involves Jon Hoffman, a B’nai Amoona congregant who also serves as the shul’s mashgiach, supervising its kashrut (kosher) status. On Sept. 25, Hoffman donated peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) at the Carter Blood Care Center in Dallas to a woman with a terrible blood-cancer-related disorder.

Hoffman explained that in 2000, while he was still a student at Parkway North High School, he registered with Be The Match, which is operated by the National Bone Marrow Donor Program. Registering required a swab of the inside of his cheek so that his DNA could be compared to patients who need a bone marrow transplant. Then, he said, he pretty much put the whole thing out of his mind. 

Fast forward to this spring, nearly 17 years later, when he got a call from the registry. He said he went through more screenings until it was ultimately decided he was the best possible match for a woman suffering from a form of leukemia. (There are two methods of donation: PBSC and bone marrow. The patient’s doctor chooses which one is best for the patient.) 


“They kept asking me over and over, ‘Are you still willing to donate? Are you still willing to donate?’” said Hoffman, who has two young children. “Of course I said yes.”

Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Be The Match flew Hoffman and his wife, Dani, to Dallas, where he donated PBSC. He was gone from St. Louis for only a few days. The registry paid for all of his donor-related expenses, including travel, lodging and food, as well as Dani’s.

“They took my collection, processed it through their system and the person needing treatment received my stem cells in the hopes she would recover,” said Hoffman. 

“The registry keeps it pretty anonymous,” he added. “All I know is that she is a 35-year-old woman who suffers from some form of leukemia and all she knows about me is that I am a 36-year-old man who donated.”

Hoffman said the PBSC removal and collection, called apheresis, was relatively easy and painless. 

“They pull blood out of your arm, which cycles through a machine that segregates certain cells,” Hoffman explained. “Then they put the rest of the blood they don’t need back into your system. They cycle through your entire circulatory system twice. It takes between four and six hours; in my case, it took 4½ hours.” 

Hoffman said the donation, coming during the High Holidays, was especially meaningful “because it’s a time to reflect on who we are and what we can do for the world.”

“This is something everyone should consider,” he added.  

“You can hear in my voice that I’m a little under the weather. That’s a result of my weakened immune system from the process. 

“But I’m fighting a little cold. Big deal. Someone is recovering from life-threatening cancer. (Donating) was such an easy thing relative to what is needed and what other people have to go through.”

For more information about National Marrow Donor Program, go to bethematch.org.


Preserving the past

You will learn more about this next week, but I’m so excited I’ve just got to share. After four years in the making, the Jewish Light is proud to unveil its digital archives, which furthers our mission to inform, inspire and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

The Light’s complete online archives contain more than 70 years of local Jewish history, dating back to our first edition in 1947. Families interested in looking up wedding announcements, births, obituaries and past articles as well as researchers interested in St. Louis Jewish community history will have every issue of the Light at their fingertips.

These archives are completely searchable, downloadable and printable and can be conveniently accessed through phone, tablet or computer. If like me, curiosity has the best of you, visit stljewishlight.com/archives and start discovering your legacy now. The cost to subscribe is only $7.95 a month.


No place for hate

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, Oct. 17 when the Fifth Annual HateBraker Hero of the Year Awards take place at the Missouri History Museum. This year, only one hero is receiving the award: Sammy Rangel, the TEDx global speaker who was the subject of a Jewish Light feature story in September (go to stljewishlight/rangel).

Rangel, 48, is executive director of the Chicago-based organization Life After Hate and author of “Fourbears: The Myths of Forgiveness.” He spent most of his early years in mental institutions as well as foster and detention homes, having embraced violence at age 11.

It wasn’t until a drug abuse program helped him rehabilitate that Rangel began to further his education and start working for a Safe Streets Outreach Program in Wisconsin. He will talk about how he dismantles violent extremism by guiding “formers” in their own transitions away from their lifestyle of bigotry and brutality into lives with meaning. 

In addition, Emilio Oelsinger, a 2016 HateBraker Hero from Vienna, Austria, will be in attendance. He is the great grandson of a Viennese Catholic family who hid a Jewish couple during the Hitler years. The couple was the aunt and uncle of Richard Winter, who was a 17-year-old Jewish boy who escaped from Vienna in 1938. Winter was the first husband of Susan Balk, who founded HateBrakers and was a 2017 Jewish Light Unsung Hero.

Balk and several members of the HateBraker executive board went to Vienna last year to place a plaque on the home where the Oelsinger family had lived. Several generations of the family were in attendance at the placing of the plaque and the reception that followed.  

Registration for the HateBraker Hero Awards, which is free of charge and open to the public, begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the event at 7. After Rangel’s talk, a panel discussion will ensue, focusing on the aftermath of the Jason Stockley not-guilty verdict last month.

For more information, contact Arlen Chaleff at [email protected]