Chabad hassid donates kidney to member of rival Satmar sect

Rabbi Ephraim Simon: "This goes to show that there's also plenty of good news to be reported as well."

Satmar NY 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Satmar NY 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
In a notable act of kindness between members of two hassidic movements that have a history of tense relations, a Chabad hassid from Teaneck, New Jersey, has donated one of his kidneys to a Satmar hassid from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The story, which first appeared on, Lubavitch's news Web site, comes as several negative organ transplant stories involving Jews have made headlines. The latest was a Swedish newspaper report claiming the IDF was involved in illegal organ harvesting among Palestinians. Last month, an American Jew was arrested by the FBI for allegedly engaging in illegal organ trafficking. In contrast, on August 13, Rabbi Ephraim Simon, co-director of Friends of Lubavitch and a father of nine, parted with one of his kidneys to save the life of a Satmar father of 10. "It is interesting that what I did happened in the same news cycle as those other stories," Simon said, in a telephone conversation on Sunday with The Jerusalem Post from his home in Teaneck, where he is recuperating. "I hope this goes to show that while bad news tends to get the most exposure, there is also plenty of good news to be reported as well. And I am just one of many people donating their kidneys to save another person. "It is providence that it happened now. I've been preparing for this moment for a year already." What makes the story piquant in haredi circles is the long history of tense relations between Satmar and Chabad. Satmar, virulently opposed to Zionism, has been critical of Chabad's aggressively pro-Israel stance. In the mid-80s a group of Chabad hassidim were attacked while they passed through a predominantly Satmar neighborhood in Brooklyn. Satmar hassidim have also complained that Chabad has at times aimed its outreach efforts toward Satmar followers, in addition to unaffiliated Jews. Simon said the fact that the recipient was a Satmar hassid was never an issue. "It never entered my thought process. The Rebbe [Menachem Mendel Schneerson] always said that we must love every Jew." Simon originally began thinking about donating a kidney a year ago, when a community Web site posted a notice that a 12-year-old girl was in need of one. Simon, who at the time had a daughter aged 12, felt he could not ignore the call. He researched the possible dangers and found that there were no real risks involved. The operation was relatively simple. And it was possible to live with only one kidney without suffering any decrease in function. The only risk was in a case in which one kidney suffered damaged or developed cancer, or if someone in the donor's family needed a transplant in the future. "After discussing the matter with my wife we decided that I had to save that girl," he said. In the end, Simon's kidney was not suitable for the girl. But the process ultimately led him to donate his kidney to the Satmar man, who suffered from a genetic disease that had killed several of his relatives and that was destroying his own kidneys. Although he knew the recipient would be a religious Jew with 10 children, he did not know that he was a Satmar until a later stage. "The recipient is doing phenomenally well. He is up and walking around," Simon said. "The doctor said that it was as if he received a kidney from his own brother. It gives me a lot of strength to know that."