Rosh Yeshiva's wife donates kidney – after her son did the same

Rabbanit Naomi Shapira, mother of 11, is well-known in the religious-Zionist community for her classes on Jewish marriage and sanctity.

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Hillel Fendel,

Rabbanit Naomi Shapira
Rabbanit Naomi Shapira

Rabbanit Naomi Shapira, mother of 11 and well-known in the religious-Zionist community for her classes on Jewish marriage and sanctity, donated a kidney last week to a mother of three, Ilanit. The latter had been waiting three years for a donor.

Mrs. Shapira, wife of Yeshivat Ramat Gan dean Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, said she became aware of the concept of donating a kidney when her son Avraham did exactly that three years ago. "When he donated his kidney," she said, "I was very moved, and it was a very powerful experience."

She decided she would like to do so herself: "I went around for a long time with the thought that at age 55, after giving birth to 11 children, I won't give birth again - but I can still give life."

But the final push came on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for Fallen IDF Soldiers and Victims of Arab Terrorism), "when my husband's Yeshiva and the community held a joint memorial ceremony. The neighborhood rabbi spoke and said that everyone should take upon himself a good deed in the memory of those who fell. Right then I decided I could wait no more, and I called the Gift of Life Organization."

Gift of Life (Matnat Chayim) is an organization founded a decade ago by Rabbi Yehoshu Haber, himself a kidney recipient. Its 400th kidney donor – a 36-year-old father of six from Beit El – was recently honored at the President's Residence.

Not everyone who wants to fulfill this mitzvah (good deed) is able to, for various medical and other reasons. After a long period of tests, Rabbanit Shapira was happy to learn that she had passed and was approved.

After the operation, her son and inspiration Avraham, wrote on his Facebook page, "I was privileged yesterday to accompany my mother and teacher, Rabbanit Naomi Shapira, to the operating room for the removal of her kidney that she was donating. In truth, I was more excited on this occasion than I was when I underwent the same thing myself. My heart is unable to contain the extent of the great kindness that G-d has given us, in enabling us to help the needy with our very bodies. We are happy to now have a blood-relationship with a new family in Israel."

Ilanit, the recipient, said that her long, three-year wait for a kidney included the possibility that her sister or brother-in-law would be found matching, but in fact, their blood was found to have too many antibodies for a transplant. Mrs. Shapira said, "To my great happiness, the tests found that my antibody count was not high – apparently because of my many pregnancies…"

Just last week, Rabbanit Shapira's son-in-law also donated a kidney.

Research has shown that there's little long-term risk, though not none at all, for kidney donation, given that donors are carefully screened beforehand and generally receive regular checkups afterwards.