Thousands of Orthodox Jewish New Yorkers who have recovered from the coronavirus are now stepping up to donate potentially life-saving blood plasma to help fight the illness, according to a new report.
More than half of donors to Mount Sinai hospital system’s plasma collection have been Orthodox Jews, Dr. David Reich, president and chief operating officer for the system, told The Forward.
The community-wide effort began in late March when Dr. Samuel Shoham, an expert on infectious diseases in transplant patients at Johns Hopkins University, reached out to his friend Chaim Lebovits, an Orthodox Jewish shoe wholesaler from Monsey, the outlet reported.
The community had been hit early and quite severely by the virus — and Shoham figured that many had the antibodies needed to be used to treat current patients and to fuel research, he told the outlet.
“I had no idea that he would drop everything and completely immerse himself in this,” Shoham said of his friend. “[Lebovits] is giving his community members a chance to do something, now that they have this power in their body to make a difference.”
That one-man volunteer effort has since turned into a much larger project to connect post-COVID-19 Jews to New York-area hospitals for plasma donation.
Lebovits told the Forward he has sent tests from Orthodox hubs to Mount Sinai and Montefiore network hospitals, in addition to small urgent care centers that can distribute the tests to large labs as well as Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic.
More than 3,000 people have now donated plasma around the region, and twice as many are being tested this week to see if they have the antibodies, Lebovits told The Forward.
He is hopeful that in total, more than 45,000 people from the Orthodox community around New York will ultimately donate plasma.
“The plasma isn’t just used for [religious Jews] or Jewish people,” he said. “It’s for people in general. We as observant Jews have an obligation to preserve life, and save life, and help as many people as we can.”
The Brooklyn Jewish enclaves of Borough Park and South Williamsburg are among the city’s zip codes with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, the latest statistics show.
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