Two miracles took place in March, said Paula Mate, when readers of The Jewish Standard and area residents participated in a bone marrow donor drive for Jamie Finkelstein, ‘7. The young woman, who has been fighting a four-year-long battle with an acute form of leukemia, has found a match. Finding a match is a one in ‘0,000 chance in your own ethnic group, and Finkelstein’s match is a nine out of 10 points.
Oradell residents Mate and Nina Glaser organized the March 1′ drive, which was sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of Paramus and Temple Sholom in River Edge. Said Mate, "This is a Jewish trifecta. The timing was perfect, between two miraculous holidays Purim and Pesach. We have the miracle first that the community came out with a commitment and a love for her. Then we have the match and the mitzvah."
Networking was crucial to the project’s success. Several Oradell families who knew Finkelstein and her late parents reached out to others, who "offered to spread the word through the shul list; United Synagogue Youth sent out an e-mail that brought young people to the [JCCP] and people put up fliers in Oradell and surrounding towns to bring people in as well. Pastors mentioned it that morning from their pulpits, and congregants responded.
"That was Judaism at its best," said Mate. "Everything I had always been taught about repairing the world, I finally saw happen in one little corner. We put out a call for help, and people said, ‘Hineni; I am here for Jamie.’"
The mood at the JCCP during the drive was subdued but purposeful. People knew they came to do something important. Participants at the Purim Carnival in another area of the building came downstairs and donated blood, too.
"I am so thankful for the community’s response," Finkelstein said. "I never dreamed there were so many people out there willing to literally give a part of themselves to a total stranger."
Said Mate, "The mitzvah is that by the actions of all these people, from all walks of life and every ethnic group, a young woman alone found the support she desperately needed. Now at least there’s a chance she will go on to lead a full life." Mate added, "And there are others searching for matches who may still benefit from the drive in Paramus."
Since Finkelstein was notified of her match, things have moved quickly, but she still faces challenges. She is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation to neutralize the cancer. After she is hospitalized, she will undergo whole body radiation to destroy her bone marrow to prepare her to accept the donor graft. Since the procedure also destroys her immune system, leaving her vulnerable to any infectious disease, she will be in isolation for up to two months to prevent infection and rejection of the transplant.
Finkelstein would like to encourage those who would still like to help her in some way to approach their local blood banks and become potential donors. "It is amazing," she said, "how one blood test can offer the gift of life."