Magen Dovid Adom Employees Aren’t Vampires

Magen Dovid Adom Employees Aren’t Vampires

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How I got over my fear of donating blood


Current pop culture is obsessed with vampire lore. True Blood, Twilight, and the Vampire Diaries are proof of this trend. For some reason, we are attracted to the idea of human-like monsters killing other humans because of the desire for blood. One might even say we thrive on the violent and gory scenes that appear on our LCD screens. If we indulge in these violent images on screen, why then do we shy away from the simple, and entirely human paramedics who ask us to donate blood? Has the vampire imagery become so ingrained in our consciousness that we see anyone trying to take our blood as a threat? And why is it that seeing blood on tv is thrilling, but blood in sterile little bags can cause a grown man to faint?

I don’t have the answer to those questions, but I can share my own fears before I donated blood for the first time, and how those fears were proven in vain.

Once upon a time, when I just a little kid, I psyched myself out before I had a routine blood test and I fainted from my nerves. In my mind, the tiny amount of blood that was taken from my body was the reason that I had fainted. From then on, I associated any blood draw with fainting and perpetuated a terrible dread of any surgical procedure.

When Meira asked me before the Pardes blood drive in the fall if I would be willing to donate, I said no. I told her that I had low iron (which was true once upon a time) and that I fainted from donating blood. I wasn’t being completely honest. My one low iron test from my teenage years became an excuse to hide behind. The fact that I fainted from donating blood was false too; as I had never actually attempted to donate blood, I had no way of knowing what would happen. I did offer to help other people who were donating though, and spent the first three hours of last semester’s blood drive serving scoops of ice cream and holding hands. Each donor that I helped asked me the same question; was I donating today? I told them the same line I had fed Meira; that my blood was just too low in iron. Secretly, I felt relieved that I could hide behind my low-iron wall, knowing that no one would challenge me with that logic.

At least I thought no one would challenge me. After many donors asked me the same question, and accepted my shoddy answer, one donor pushed a bit further. He asked me if I had my hemoglobin tested on that exact day. He said that sometimes, hemoglobin could be low one day and perfectly fine the next. In that moment, I realized that I could no longer take shelter in my refuge of dishonesty. Partly because I wanted to prove that my iron was indeed low, and partly because I felt bad that I was not even attempting to donate, I filled out my forms and had my hemoglobin tested. When the Magen David Adom worker pricked my finger, I didn’t even flinch. I was confident that the result would come up negative and free me completely from the need to donate. Clearly, the needle she used wasn’t scary, and neither was the small amount of blood that pooled on my middle finger. What truly scared me was the result- my iron was actually perfect and I was in good shape to donate that afternoon.

Suddenly, I lost my only excuse and found myself in a sticky situation. How could I not donate right after the whole room heard that my iron was great? The moment the paramedic told me that my blood tested fine, I started to panic. I felt the usual dizziness start to well up and was worried that I would faint that very instant. And yet, all I was doing was sitting in a chair! The finger prick was done and I wasn’t even next in line to donate.

I realized in that moment that my fear of fainting had nothing to do with the actual blood draw. My dizziness was brought on by nothing more than the fear itself. After leaving for a moment to compose myself, I reentered the room and told Meira that I was ready to donate. She saw that I was still scared, and told me that I was brave (I felt like a little kid in the doctor’s office again). She held my hand, had me turn away from the paramedic about to take my blood, and distracted me. My attention was also captivated by a stranger who showed up to donate, a girl who revealed that she was also from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She and I talked for about 10 minutes and discovered that we had actually grown up on the same tiny cul-de-sac street and had been practically next-door neighbors as kids. Before I knew what was happening, the paramedic asked me to hold the bandage on my arm and lie down for another minute before I could get ice cream. I had no clue that the paramedic had started taking my blood- not to mention removing the needle. The entire procedure was entirely painless and quick. After 2 minutes, I sat up a little tentatively, still afraid of fainting, and realized that I actually felt 100% fine. I ambled over to the “recovery station” and ate delicious ice cream. When I left the blood drive, I felt refreshed and strong, and not in the least bit dizzy. As it turns out, donating blood isn’t all that bad! Moreover, I knew that my one pint of blood would save three lives. That reward was almost as good as the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! Just kidding, it was better! By the end of the experience, I felt like a rich hotel guest with staff who pampered me and catered to my every need. The volunteers were amazing and the MDA paramedics were kind people who taught me some Tanakh Gematriya while I waited. In fact, the MDA workers were anything but vampires!

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[Alumni Post] Let’s Talk About Orthodox Conversion

“This post first appeared on JOFA’s The Torch blog.”

I completed my Orthodox conversion with the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) in 2011. My process was an incredibly positive and meaningful experience. I learned the laws of kashrut, Shabbat, prayer, blessings, and how to live an observant lifestyle, formed lasting relationships that continue to benefit me personally and professionally, and became part of a committed, strong community. That said, I think I was very fortunate. If I hadn’t been a student at NYU, if my friend hadn’t been going through the process already and hadn’t connected me to Rabbi Sarna and Rabbi Smokler and their wives, if I didn’t already live in a Jewish community, I don’t know where I would have begun. I knew I wanted to join the Jewish people but I did not know how, who to turn to, how long it might take, what exactly I needed to learn and do. As I began the process, some of those things revealed themselves. But I never knew exactly how long the process might take and the lingering question, “Am I doing this right?” never stopped gnawing at me.

What I’ve come to realize since then is that conversion in the United States is overwhelmingly a women’s issue. Sponsoring rabbis report that a significant majority of conversion candidates are in fact women. Recently, I sat in a room with ten other converts to discuss our experience with converting through the RCA. I couldn’t help noticing that all present were women, with a man at the head of the table. His co-facilitator was a woman and both acknowledged the imbalance. I appreciate the efforts of the RCA to assemble a diverse committee to take stock of their process and to involve those directly affected. I am hoping this is a step in the right direction.

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D’ror and Disability (Behar Sinai)

Jonah P
Ever a hyper-literate people, even in grief and death, we customarily learn mishnayot in honor of a deceased parent on the anniversary of his or her death. To this end, I would like to share some mishna learning in honor of my biological father, who died 10 years ago today, a man who has had a profound impact on me, the least of which being a lingering captivation with Toraitic, rabbinic, and modern concepts of illness.

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Reflections on my First Yom HaZikaron in Israel

10947187_10103586304404122_6788517531781895680_nYom HaZikaron – what a sad day.

I had expectations and anxieties around Yom HaZikaron and I was actually quite relieved that my main feeling from the day was simply sadness. I was anxious that I would feel anger. Anger about the nearly constant state of war Israel is in. Anger about glorifying war. About the current political leadership of Israel. About vilification of the ‘enemy.’ About religious justification for war. But thankfully, I was just left with sadness.

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Har Herzl: From a Place of Rest Comes Awakening

shiraFollowing the Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony at a Jerusalem elementary school (affiliated with the national religious, or Dati Leumi, movement), I sat in a processing session at Pardes. I told my teacher how I had been feeling blank, seemingly without much emotion or intellection since Yom HaShoah the previous week, and how this was atypical for me since I typically connect to such events and narratives. My teacher shared that when he visited Auschwitz, he was surprised to feel less than he had expected — he had felt numb too. This admission comforted me because I had been feeling guilty and ashamed for not connecting thus far with the community center Yom HaShoah tekes (ceremony), the Masa Yom HaZikaron tekes, the elementary school tekes, and the general atmosphere of memory and mourning. I value connecting to experiences on intellectual, spiritual, and emotional levels. Maybe it is a strange, masochistic drive — to try to feel as much as I can in any given scenario — but for me it is a necessary component of empathy and connection, experience and learning; it is the lived experience of the human experience. This week of the Israeli “Yoms,” I had been trying to react and engage, and I had even cried a bit, but my level of comprehension, understanding, and empathy was minimal. Since I am passionate about Israel, Zionism, Judaism, and Holocaust education and awareness, not connecting to these events disturbed me. Especially considering that the news of soldiers being killed last summer, their faces and stories, woke me up from my ambivalence about Israel and Judaism, rekindling my Zionist and Jewish identities.

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I am Israel

Last night I sat with hundreds of others for the Memorial Ceremony, organized by the young leaders of the Youth group EZRA. This year my 16 year old son, a group leader-Madrich- for 3rd grade boys-sat with them. Each year, following the siren, young members read the names of the youth group members from the neighborhood who died while serving in the army or in a terror attack. Each year we hope that new names won’t be added to the list.  Sadly, each year the list grows longer.

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[PCJE Dvar Torah] Together We Stand

This week we will be reading the double parsha of Ahrei Mot-Kedoshim. This week’s reading come on the heels of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon.  When reading the parsha, my mind went immediately to these deaths.  I could not help but draw a comparison between these week’s parsha, which is in some ways about how we move on from a national tragedy, to Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day), the days we currently find ourselves celebrating.

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Yom Ha’atzmaut and the Nakbar

67 years ago, May 15th 1948, David Ben Gurion declared the independent state of Israel. There were 600,000 Jews.

There should have been more.  But 6 million were killed by the Nazis.  Many of these could have been saved.  But the British closed the gates, fearing Palestinian Arab violence if Jews were let into Palestine.

There were 250,000 Jewish refugees, survivors of the Holocaust in Europe (my wife and parents in law amongst them). After the war many of those attempted to come to Israel – and because of fear of Arab violence they were put by the British for a second time in concentration camps in Cyprus.

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The Other Side of the Mechitza

D curYesterday’s was a quiet early morning walk through the Old City. Shops weren’t yet open. The sun was peeking through the haze just enough to make the covered sections of walkway seem black. Hardly anyone was about, but there were two women just ahead of me, talking animatedly in Hebrew. When they got to the security checkpoint before entering the Kotel, one of the women got stopped. What was that in her bag? It looked like a tefillin case to me. I was waved through (with my tefillin case) while she was held up a little longer so her bag could get x-rayed. It wasn’t just any morning; it was a Women of the Wall (WoW) morning.

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Yom Hashoah Reflections: An Open Book

Every Yom HaShoah, I am transported back to my eighth grade English class.

Amidst a sea of plaid skirts, headbands, and decorated notebooks, I am the only Jew in my class. Open on each desk is a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank. I feel the familiar discomfort wash over me – from my loafers on up to my big, curly hair – as we begin our discussion of the assigned reading, a discomfort that has lasted for the duration of our month-long unit on Holocaust literature. As we read passages aloud, I feel protective of this girl I’ve never met, but whose personal diary has become the gateway to Holocaust education. While I could recognize the historical and educational significance in reading this relic, I did and still do feel so much sadness for this girl whose layered internal life, contained only in this little diary, is the world’s to read. In that eighth grade classroom, I felt, for a moment, as if the pages of my own life were open on each desk.

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