Rabbi Kanievsky supports head of NGO investigated by police

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky publicly visits head of the 'Matanat Chaim' NGO, under investigation for trading organ donations for money.

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Tzvi Lev,

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky
Yaakov Naumi/Flash 90

Prominent haredi Torah sage and leading halakhic authority Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky visited the house of Rabbi Yeshayahu Haber, who heads the Matnat Chaim NGO, in a public show of support for the embattled organization. Police are currently investigating Matanat Chaim over suspicion that the NGO bumped patients to the top of its recipient list in exchange for donations.

The visit is seen in the haredi world as signaling Rabbi Kanievsky's support for Haber and Matnat Chaim, which works to assist kidney donations in Israel. Earlier this month, hundreds of people who had received kidney transplants joined in a social media campaign defending Matnat Chaim, which one of them called "a sanctification of Gods name, people who do God's holy work on this earth".

In early September, police had arrested Haber and other heads of Matnat Chaim over suspicions that members of the association advanced names on the organ transplant wait list in exchange for money that was transferred, in most cases, in the form of donations to the association.

Police had opened the investigation several months ago following a series of complaints to the Ministry of Health. As part of the probe, police interviewed former donors to the NGO, and their suspicions were strengthened due to the fact that the majority of those donating money were unable to work and their financial situation was poor, leading authorities to conclude that these were not really donations, but in fact payment for being advanced on the waiting list for an organ transplant.

Matnat Chaim is revered in the haredi world, and many public figures have slammed the investigation, including famed haredi author Chaim Walder, who called it a "witch hunt". Yisrael Hayom's haredi affairs writer Yehuda Shlesinger wrote last week that "the State of Israel should ask forgiveness from Rabbi Yeshayahu Haber, who saved the lives of 466 Israelis and who has been under house arrest for four days in one of the most delusional investigations ever."