YU and Gift of Life: The Perfect Match

Stuart Halpern, Yeshiva Student, Alumnus and Employee, Builds on Strong Relationship Between University and Lifesaving Organization

Stuart Halpern wears many hats.

Stuart Halpern
Halpern's stem cell donation will help a 12 year old girl battle leukemia.

As coordinator of student life at Yeshiva University, assistant director of operations for YU’s new Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought and assistant director of student events at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Halpern carries many titles. Recently, Halpern—a graduate of Revel and a doctoral student at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration—added one more: lifesaver.

On June 23, his essential donation of blood stem cells went toward saving the life of a 12 year old girl with leukemia.

The process began in 2006, when, as a student at Yeshivat HaKotel in Israel, Halpern registered with Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation—a bone marrow, blood stem cell and umbilical cord blood donor registry. “It’s something I felt was natural for me to do,” said Halpern, “and it’s such a simple thing to do to potentially save someone’s life.”

Halpern, who is also busy co-editing a sequel to 2010’s Mitokh Ha-Ohel—a collection of original essays on the weekly Torah portions authored by YU faculty—was called back twice for further stem cell testing, but, as he said, “third time’s a charm.” Halpern completed the five-hour procedure, in which IVs filtered out stem cells from his blood, and was able to return to work the next day.

“In a month, I get a report of how she’s doing,” said Halpern. “And there’s potential for me to even meet her personally in a year but my first priority is to hear that she’s fully recovering. That’s my only concern.”

Yeshiva University and Gift of Life have a longstanding relationship. The University has facilitated more bone marrow transplants, 31 to date, than any other institution through Gift of Life’s on-campus recruitment program.

In 2005 at YU’s 81st Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation, President Richard M. Joel conferred an honorary degree on Jay Feinberg, Gift of Life’s founder and executive director. Feinberg, a leukemia survivor, has devoted his life to educating and encouraging people to be tested for bone marrow registries.

Avi Amsalem ’09YC, and a former Presidential Fellow at YU, donated stem cells to the Gift of Life Registry as a student in 2007. He met Jack, a survivor of leukemia who benefitted from Amsalem’s gift, two years later at an emotional celebration hosted by the New York Mets at Citi Field.

The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation honored Yeshiva University with its Partners for Life Award at the foundation’s annual gala dinner in 2008 with President Joel accepting the award on behalf of YU students.

The YU Student Medical Ethics Society has dedicated February as Bone-Marrow Awareness Month on campus. Throughout the month, the group holds drives to recruit new donors to the Gift of Life registry and raise awareness about medical issues and halacha.

“We are proud to call Stu a member of the Gift of Life family,” said Feinberg. “The selfless deed of donating his peripheral stem cells to a total stranger is an act of pikuah nefesh—or saving the life of another person. His mitzvah reminds us that the partnership forged between Yeshiva University and Gift of Life is a strong and everlasting relationship, built on the passion and commitment of students like Stu.”

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