Young Israel sets blood drive

BY MIA LEVINE, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

While Old Man Winter settles himself comfortably in the St. Louis region for the next few months, the need for blood and blood products will reach critical levels. Dr. Bob Hellman and his wife Judy, both members of Young Israel, recognized this need and have decided to act.

The couple has spearheaded the effort to organize the St. Louis Jewish Community Blood Drive, which will take place at Young Israel on Sunday, Jan. 13, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

“Some time ago, Judy and I decided that we were looking for some type of chesed project, a project of social value to do kindness,” Dr. Hellman said.

“As an anesthesiologist, I’m well aware of the need for blood, especially in the winter months because of the types of surgeries and trauma that take place. Also, people don’t get out as much because of the weather. That creates a shortage, too,” he said.

With the support of Young Israel’s rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Shulman, and Young Israel President Bobby Medow, the Hellmans quickly mobilized, gathering support from the Red Cross, the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, and the St. Louis Jewish Social Action Network.

Soon, their idea gained clarity. The group took a quotation from the Talmud as their credo: “He who saves one life is as if he saved an entire world.”

Mrs. Hellman said while the blood drive will take place at Young Israel, located at 8101 Delmar Blvd., the event was created with hopes of broad community participation.

“We are opening this to the entire community,” she said. “We’ve personally contacted the rabbis of the synagogues in the area and the day schools. They’ve been extremely supportive, helpful, and very excited that we are doing an inclusive project of the entire Jewish community,” she said.

In fact, Rabbi Shulman finds the project as a way to unite not only the Jewish community, but the entire St. Louis region as well. Since joining the shul in August 2007, one of Rabbi Shulman’s primary goals has been to involve Young Israel in the community as a whole. He wants to reach out beyond what is expected.

“The idea of expanding the boundaries of the project, not to be just a shul project, but to reach out to the wider Jewish community, is a way of bridging some of the divides that are necessary at times because of religious value differences,” Shulman said. “But common values and interests unite us all. We want to express this sense of community to the entire Jewish community as well.”

Shulman added, “I think there’s value to the fact that there are several types of chesed programs — those geared to some sort of assistance to the Jewish community, or those that are geared towards the general community. The advantage to this blood drive is that it does both.”

This sense of unity has been contagious within Young Israel. “The project has developed a lot of camaraderie within our shul,” Judy Hellman said. “People are calling and volunteering. We’re very excited about it.”

She says that in planning the event, she and her husband are trying to find a place where everyone can participate and experience a deep connection with the chesed project.

For those who cannot give blood, there is also a need for volunteers to register potential donors, run the canteen, or greet people, Judy Hellman said. “There will be a banner where children can draw inside the lettering; we are going to have a babysitting center run by high school-age girls. We are trying to make it so every age — whether elementary, high school, or adult — feels like they can contribute.”

The outpouring of support has both pleased and overwhelmed Bob Hellman. “I’ve had a lot of phone conversations with other synagogues; many that I’ve never had any contact with. I’ve met some wonderful people that have really been very helpful to us,” he said.

Volunteers who would like to help can contact the Young Israel office at 314-727-1880 or e-mail [email protected] Those wanting to donate blood are encouraged to make appointments at www.givelife.org (use sponsor code YIJS) or by calling the Red Cross at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE. Appointments take priority. Walk-ins are also welcome.

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