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HIR Blood Drive Will Pay Tribute to Those Who ‘Saved Entire World’

To help cap the annual celebration of National Blood Donor Month, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale -The Bayit (HIR), located at 3700 Henry Hudson Parkway in the Bronx, will be holding its winter blood drive on Sunday, January 29, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The synagogue is marking the occasion by honoring two of the top blood donors among its members, James Lapin and Rabbi Gabe Kretzmer Seed. Each has donated more than 80 pints of blood over the years. Also receiving special recognition at this year’s blood drive is the Bayit’s Medical Advisory Committee.

Members of HIR since 2001, James Lapin and his wife, Ann, have long been role models in the Riverdale community and beyond. Besides coordinating the synagogue’s weekly Abraham and Sarah’s Tent Shabbat Dinners, James has served as HIR’s Financial Secretary since 2017. James donated a kidney to a woman in need in 2005. In addition, he and his wife, who have three children of their own, have served as interim care parents for newborns—45 and counting—while they awaited placement with permanent families.

“I have dreamt of a shul like the Bayit for as long as I can remember,” says James. “And as for Riverdale, my home for the past 21 years, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Rabbi Kretzmer Seed serves as full-time Jewish chaplain for the New York City Department of Correction, where his responsibilities extend to three jail facilities on Rikers Island and at the Vernon C. Bain Center in the Bronx. His duties include leading services, teaching Torah classes and, as he explains, “ helping ensure that the religious and spiritual needs of those in custody and on the staff—individuals of all faiths and none—are met.”

A blood donor since his teenage years, the rabbi notes, “I have a number of family members who have benefited from blood donations, including those who have survived cancer. As a former hospital chaplain, I have seen firsthand how blood donations save lives every day.”

Rabbi Kretzmer Seed, who received semicha from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in 2017, resides in Riverdale with his wife, Nina, and their daughter. He has partnered with HIR’s Social Action Committee in initiating programs reaching out to incarcerated Jews, such as holiday card giving and coordinating the distribution of much-needed prayer books and other works on Jewish philosophy and history.

In honoring the Bayit’s Medical Advisory Committee, HIR’s Senior Rabbi Steven Exler observed: “When the Covid pandemic started, our shul had to adjust to a plethora of new and unexpected conditions for every aspect of shul life. Our first concern after the health and safety of our community was how to daven together safely and in accordance with recommended guidelines. For this purpose and many more, a Medical Advisory Committee was established. It included members of the Bayit who are professionals in the fields of medicine, infectious diseases and public health, as well as clergy, staff and lay leadership.

“The committee met regularly, offered informational Zoom sessions to the community and was in constant touch to provide the Bayit community with the best recommendations and guidelines for davening and other in-person gatherings. We are forever indebted to them for sharing their knowledge, commitment and time to helping our Bayit navigate this Covid time.

“Continuing Jewish life at its basic level during the pandemic was a cornerstone in our Bayit. Besides offering daily classes and programs over Zoom, our rabbinic team turned to the Bayit’s Medical Advisory Committee for medical guidance on how to come together as a community and pray and meet in other ways. I feel honored and humbled to have shared the responsibility and the zechut this committee carried throughout the pandemic.

“Our Sages teach us Kol hamekayem nefesh ahat, keilu kiyem olam malei—‘Anyone who saves a life, it is as if one saved an entire world.’ This committee’s commitment to staying safe while coming together at our Bayit was remarkable and I am forever grateful to them.”

The nonprofit NY Blood Center will once again be providing the specially trained technicians and equipment for the Jan. 29 blood drive at HIR. They will draw blood in the traditional way and, with the availability of ALYX System technology, offer donors who meet specific minimum height and weight requirements the option of giving two complete transfusion units of red blood cells at one time.

Seryl Ritter and Adela Korn, HIR’s blood driver coordinators, strongly encourage all donors to schedule an appointment in advance by either calling NYBC at 1-800-933-BLOOD (2566), registering online at www.thebayit.org/bd or scanning the QR code displayed with this article. While walk-ins are also welcome, priority will be given to those who pre-register.

Eligible donors must be between the ages of 17 and 75 and will be required to present a photo ID card; those who have blood donor cards should bring them as well. Face masks are not required at this time, but Covid-19 policy is subject to change. Anyone recovering from Covid must be at least 14 days symptom-free before donating blood. Those who are experiencing a cold, sore throat, respiratory infection or flu-like symptoms are not eligible to donate blood.

Further information on the blood drive is available by e-mailing Seryl at [email protected] or calling her at 917-301-8463.

“January has been intentionally designated as National Blood Donor Month,” explains Seryl, “because donations routinely decline in the winter months, when the weather often turns nasty and infections rise. Yet the critical need for blood doesn’t abate. So please join us and give blood, the gift of life.”

By Sy Oshinsky

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