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Sense of Urgency Propels HIR’s Annual Blood Drive

The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale—The Bayit (HIR), located at 3700 Henry Hudson Parkway at the corner of Netherland Avenue, will hold its 19th annual 9/11 commemorative blood drive on Sunday, September 13, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with an added sense of urgency created by COVID-19’s impact on availability of blood supplies.

Declaring a blood emergency recently, the New York Blood Center warned that the pandemic had reduced the metropolitan area’s blood supply to “critical” levels. The number of blood drives declined by two-thirds this year, it reported, and the recent resumption of elective surgeries at local hospitals has made the blood supply situation particularly acute.

HIR has announced that this year’s drive, in addition to honoring the victims of 9/11, is also dedicated to all those who struggled and perished in the past year from COVID-19 and other causes. A special focus of the drive will be to honor the memory of Judy Fettman Dreyfuss z”l, the beloved daughter of HIR members Beverly and Ted Fettman, who died in July at age 50 after a courageous lifelong battle with a rare and progressive genetic disease, familial dysautonomia.

Special procedures are being implemented in this pandemic year to create a safe environment. Donors will be required to wear masks or other face coverings at all times and submit to a temperature check when arriving at the synagogue. Those who have blood donor cards are asked to present them.

To help HIR maintain social-distancing requirements at all stages of the blood collection process, donors are strongly encouraged to make an appointment in advance by calling Seryl Ritter, blood drive coordinator, at 917-301-8463 or by e-mailing her at [email protected]. To reserve a time slot online, visit https://donate.nybc.org/donor/schedules/drive_schedule/274049. Walk-ins are welcome, but they will be accommodated only if a vacant time slot is immediately available. Otherwise, the individual will be invited to return at the next available time slot.

All donors must be between the ages of 17 and 75 (or 16 with a signed New York Blood Center parental consent form available from Seryl Ritter). They must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health. Donors should eat a well-balanced meal and drink plenty of water before they donate.

Barred from donating blood is anyone who has had a positive diagnostic test result or experienced symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days, or is currently under self-quarantine restrictions. There will be no testing for COVID-19 during the blood drive, Ritter emphasized. Prospective donors should contact their health providers if they wish to be tested.

As co-sponsor of the blood drive with HIR, the independent and nonprofit New York Blood Center will be providing the staff and all equipment. Once again, donors will have the option of giving two complete transfusion units of red blood cells at one time, through utilization of the ALYX System, in addition to the traditional method of donating blood. Extra precautions, including frequent disinfection, will be taken at the HIR blood collection site to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Also to be noted is that this year HIR will be unable to provide a children’s activity table during the blood drive out of safety concerns.

The Blood Center has pointed out that “it is safe to donate blood. There is no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion. In fact, there have been no reported cases of transfusion-transmission for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus.”

“With the approach of the High Holidays,” said Rabbi Steven Exler, senior rabbi of HIR, “this is a particularly opportune time to fulfill the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh.” He pointed out that COVID-19 has had a serious impact on blood donations in the metropolitan area, citing such factors as health concerns and work-from-home requirements as contributing to below-normal turnouts at blood drives these past several months.

Noting that the annual blood drive has always been dedicated not only to the victims but to the heroic first responders on 9/11, Rabbi Exler said, “It is quite fitting that this year we also celebrate the life of another courageous individual, Judy Fettman Dreyfuss, who lived life deeply for five decades with an extremely rare genetic disorder, modeling sheer determination and a will to enjoy life as fully as possible. Her final act to donate vital organs to save the lives of others should motivate all of us this time of year.”

Judy’s friends and family, including her husband, Marc Dreyfuss, described her as a warrior whose smile, kind nature and high spirits were contagious and encouraged others in difficult circumstances to meet their own challenges.

For more information on the 9/11 blood drive or other programs, contact the synagogue at [email protected] or 718-796-4730, ext. 100.

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