When the world seems to be rocked continually by terrible events, as it does lately, many people feel almost helpless. There seems to be little that one can do to make a difference. I am one of those people who believes that we should never give up hope, and there is always something you can do to help some sector of society.

For many people in Europe and even in the United States, the way to make a difference in the past few days was to join rallies and protest the horrific terror attacks that just occurred in Paris. Especially because four Jewish people were murdered solely for their ethnicity, we Jews feel that we must stand up and speak out about the terror, about the anti-Semitism.

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I did not join a rally nor hold up a sign that read "Je Suis Juif," but this past weekend I attended a local Blood Donor Drive at my shul, the East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn, New York. I believe strongly in donating blood, in making known these events, and encouraging people to "give up the red stuff." We held our annual Blood Drive event on Sunday, January 11, and in the days prior to it I publicized it on my Facebook page and Twitter feed. I also reached out to my crowd and one of my oldest friends, C, told me she wanted to join me at the Blood Drive. I was pleased to hear this because we hadn't seen each in other in several months.

We went to the shul in the morning and filled out the required papers, were checked out by nurses, and got ready to give. I had donated five times last year; four or five times is typical for me. But this time I got rejected because the nurse felt my blood pressure was a bit too high. This was a bit scary for me (I hope it was only due to a bad back pain I had earlier that week) and a let-down, because I really wanted to give. (The last time I gave was at my old high school, in early November). Fortunately my friend C was able to give, so I sat beside her as she donated. We talked about a bunch of topics, and had a nice time.

Usually when one donates blood, unless it is done for a specific, designated patient, you do not know who receives your blood. The person could be young or old, of any religion or ethnicity, of any socioeconomic background. The only thing you know is that the recipient likely has your same blood type. So in a way, giving blood is a selfless mitzvah. The anonymity of it is important to its value. You give and know that you may not receive anything from the recipient. This action is probably pegged at Number Seven on Maimonides' Ladder of Charity, giving when neither the donor nor the recipient is aware of the others identity.

I hope that this brief essay encourages at least a few of you to go out and donate blood or even platelets. And I will leave you with a short story about one of my blood donating experiences. In 2001 I donated blood at my shul and one of the volunteers helping out was Lisa, someone I knew from 6th grade onward. We spoke briefly and then I went to donate. Months later, on September 11th, she was one of about 3,000 who died in the terror attacks of that mournful day. She worked for Aon, in the South Tower, Tower Two. Now you realize even more why this annual blood drive means so much to me.


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