Why won't they donate?
Because the haredi understanding of Jewish law will not allow it.
Haredi man whose daughter's life was saved thanks to heart, lungs donation from Arab child killed in car crash says Halacha prohibits him, his family from donating organs
Dr. Itay Gal
The father of an eight year-old girl whose life was saved thanks to an organ donation from an eight year-old boy killed in a car accident said Wednesday that as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, he or his family would never donate organs themselves.
"It's easy for us to receive organs, but we would never donate," said the man, whose daughter received the heart and lungs of Anwar Abu Arar from the village of Qalansawe.
Anwar's family decided to donate his organs last week after he died in a car accident. His heart, lungs, liver and kidneys saved the lives of four children.
How did you feel when you found out that the donor was Arab?
"I was actually relieved to hear that it came from an Arab family. We cannot donate organs because the Halacha prohibits it from doing so, but for them it's not a problem, so there was no dilemma here. We can receive organs, but not give.
"But I must admit that many in our family asked questions – what would happen when Arab blood flows through my daughter's veins. But the blood is replenished so this isn't a problem.
"I saw the Arab family next to the operating room, and I was very pained to see them. I sent them a thank-you letter and I personally have no problem with the fact they're Arab," he added.
Will you be willing to sign an organ donor card now?
"Organ donation is very noble. It's a beautiful thing to save lives… But I said all along that the transplant wouldn't change our minds and that there is still no Halachic approval for donating organs."
Surgeon: Clearly immoral behavior
The father's words angered Prof. Yaacov Lavee, director of the Heart Transplantation Unit at the Sheba Medical Center. "This is outrageous," he said. "I've heard such statements from many of my candidates (for a transplant), who weren't ashamed to admit they wouldn't donate organs.
"Such statements led me to initiate the bill that prioritizes transplants for people who have signed an organ donor card. This [the father's behavior] is clearly immoral behavior," he added.
The new transplant law, which will go into effect in May, states that any person in need of a transplant and who has had an organ donor card for at least three years will be given priority on the organ transplant waiting list.
"I know for a fact that the refusal to sign such a card originates in extreme haredi circles. I've encountered many haredim who signed the card. Those who don't accept brain death (as an indication for death) represent a very small stream of Judaism… many rabbis view organ donation as a great mitzvah," Lavee concluded.
Dr. Lavee is, I believe, incorrect.
The "small stream" he mentions is growing rapidly, and now includes most Israeli haredim. That is because Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the undisputed leader of non-hasidic haredim, has labeled organ donation murder, and launched a vicious public campaign to stop Jews from donating organs – and doctors from harvesting them.
At the same time, Elyashiv allows his followers to receive donated organs – often before someone who would donate.
Elyashiv's policy has exacerbated an already difficult situation.
Israelis donate far fewer organs per capita than other First World countries. And, because countries share available organs with other countries, which means Israeli use more foreign organs than they contribute to the pool.
The disparity is so great that many foreign countries now ban Israelis from receiving organs.
The US has so far resisted that move, but it is unique among Western nations in this regard.
Rabbi Elyashiv's narrow understanding of Jewish law has contributed to the deaths of many people. And that narrow understanding is shared by hasidic rebbes and hasidic courts like Ger, Belz, Bobov and, to a large extent, Chabad.
(Chabad followers who do carry organ donation cards are often ba'alei teshuva, so-called returnees to Orthodoxy, who signed up as organ donors before their conversion or very early in the process of conversion.)
To take donated organs (which means someone else does not receive those organs) but to refuse to donate organs is obscene.
It is also bringing near the time when, as Rabbi Moshe Tendler noted, all Jews – not just Israelis – may be barred from receiving organs by Western countries.
[Hat Tip: Yankel.]