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HIR 9/11 Blood Drive at Riverdale Y to Honor ‘A Legacy of Kindness’

The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR) has announced that its 20th Annual 9/11 Blood Drive will be held in joint sponsorship with the Riverdale YM-YWHA, which will host the event on Sunday, September 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its 5625 Arlington Avenue location in the Bronx.

Also known as The Bayit (Hebrew for “Home”), the HIR synagogue has held an annual blood drive since 2001 to honor the memory of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This year it will also memorialize those who struggled and perished during the past year from COVID-19 and other causes.

The September 19 blood drive is also dedicated to the memory of two Riverdale women, Tilde Klein, z”l, and Sonia Erlich, z”l, both Holocaust survivors and longtime members of the HIR Golden Age program and the Riverdale Y’s Simon Senior Center.

“Sonia and Tilde were beloved not only by their families but by our entire Bayit community,” noted HIR’s Senior Rabbi Steven Exler. “They lived with and overcame their past to create a better future, one which celebrates Torah and Jewish values. We honor their legacy of kindness, of giving, of family values and of Torah, and encourage all to donate blood and honor their memory on September 19.”

The New York Blood Center reports that the long-term impact of the pandemic and a surge in COVID cases caused by the Delta variant have created an emergency blood shortage at hospitals in the metro area, with the number of patients requiring surgery rising while blood donations continue to lag.

The New York Blood Center, which is a nonprofit and independent community-based organization, will be providing the skilled and specially trained technicians and all equipment to draw blood. In addition to being able to donate blood through the traditional method, donors who meet specific minimum height and weight requirements will once again have the option of giving two complete transfusion units of red blood cells at one time, through utilization of the ALYX System.

To help maintain social distancing requirements at the Riverdale Y during all stages of the blood collection process, men and women are strongly encouraged to schedule an appointment in advance by calling 1-800-933-BLOOD. Walk-ins are welcome, but priority will be given to those who are pre-registered.

All donors must be between the ages of 17 and 75. They will be required to wear a mask covering the mouth and nose upon arrival in the Riverdale Y building and at all times. They will also be asked to present a photo ID card; those who have blood donor cards should bring them as well.

To be eligible to donate blood, stressed Seryl Ritter, HIR’s blood drive coordinator, anyone recovering from COVID-19 must be at least 14 days symptom-free. There will be no testing for the virus during the blood drive. Ritter can be contacted for further questions via email at [email protected] or by calling 718-549-8152.

The New York Blood Center makes these additional points for those able and willing to donate blood on September 19:

If you are experiencing a cold, sore throat, respiratory infection or flu-like symptoms, you are not eligible to donate blood.

Do not take aspirin or products containing aspirin for at least 48 hours prior to your scheduled appointment.

Eat at your regular mealtimes and drink plenty of fluids prior to donating.

You can donate whole blood every 56 days or up to six times a year (112 days or three times a year for donors utilizing ALYX).

Rabbi Exler observed that the life-affirming goal of the blood drive ties in with a core mission of his Modern Orthodox synagogue. “We at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale have always placed a central importance on connecting with and including our community’s seniors in our synagogue’s fabric,” he said. “Our home is incomplete without them. Throughout COVID, our volunteers called in to check on our seniors and went food shopping for them to keep them safe.

“We place a special emphasis (established by our founding rabbi and Rabbi-in-Residence Rav Avi Weiss) on honoring our Holocaust survivors and connecting them with younger generations through our annual Yom Hashoah Seder, and Survivors’ Lunch programs,” Rabbi Exler added. Both Klein and Erlich, cherished and beloved community members and survivors, participated actively in these programs as well as in all parts of our shul’s life, sharing their stories from the Holocaust and the future they had built, and modeling both ‘never again’ and the courage to continually renew themselves.”

Erlich, who passed away in February of this year, was born in Poland in 1920 and lost most of her family during the Holocaust. She was remembered by her granddaughter Jordana Levine as a determined, proud yet humble woman, “the embodiment of loving kindness, thankful for what she was able to accomplish in life despite the devastating losses and hardships that she had faced early on.

“To have her memory honored by the selfless and generous act of people donating blood is so meaningful and significant,” Levine said. “She helped others with no expectation of anything in return.”

Klein, who died in August 2019, was born in Romania and lived there through much of World War II. She and her family, noted her daughter, Micky Schon, “thankfully were able to escape to Palestine in 1944.” Klein emigrated from Israel to the United States in the 1950s.

“Here in the U.S. as in Israel,” recalled her daughter, “she devoted herself to teaching very young children and eventually became the director of the Inwood Y nursery school.” After Klein and her husband, Pesach, moved to Riverdale in 1982, they became active members of HIR and the local community.

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