'Gift of Life' founder Rabbi Heber passes away at age 55 from COVID-19

'He touched all our hearts with extraordinary modesty and humanity."

GIFT OF Life: Matnat Chaim donors, 2016-2017. (photo credit: Courtesy)
GIFT OF Life: Matnat Chaim donors, 2016-2017.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Yeshayahu Heber, the founder of the NGO “Gift of Life” (Matnat Chaim), has passed away at the age of 55 after being hospitalized and testing positive for COVID-19 last week.
The Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox rabbi has, over the past decade, become a leading proponent of living kidney donations: people who donate one of their kidneys to a stranger suffering from kidney disease and failure. Some 800 families have been aided by his organization.


Heber was intubated and anesthetized after he began to have further trouble breathing. After constant effort and attempts to revive him by a number of experts at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, he was pronounced dead on Thursday night.
Hadassah had a close relationship with Heber and Gift of Life over the years. Many life-saving transplants at the medical center were carried out thanks to the organization.
“The administration of Hadassah in the past and present, staff of the transplant center, nephrology center, operating rooms and basically all hospital units, knew well the man who was a part of our family,” announced Hadassah on Thursday night. “He touched all our hearts with extraordinary modesty and humanity. His wisdom and his love of people were a symbol for the man himself and for the organization he ran.”
“I myself received a kidney transplant and Rabbi Heber was the one who saved my life. This evening I feel like an orphan,” said Rabbi Moshe Klein, rabbi of Hadassah Medical Center on Mount Scopus. “The doctors fought for his life until the last moment. He just wanted to save lives: There was never a difference for him from person to person.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his sorrow on Heber’s passing, stating that he, “was an exemplar of humanity, kindness and mutual responsibility. We all hoped that he would recover from the coronavirus, but to our distress, he passed away this evening.”
Shas Party leader Arye Deri, eulogized Haber, saying “the heart breaks from the unimaginable tragedy of the passing of Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Heber, the dear and devoted Jew from the Matnat Chaim organization that saved the lives of hundreds of people through kidney transplants. These are difficult and unsteady times for all of Israel, and we cry out to the Creator that the death of this righteous Jew atone for all the people of Israel and stop the horrible plague.”
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman lamented Heber’s passing as “a great mourning for the people of Israel and a difficult evening for the healthcare system.”
“Rabbi Heber was a noble figure, a great man, who devoted his entire life to saving others,” he said.
Idan Zonshine contributed to this report.