These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Gift of Life blog post from Summer ’11

Posted on December 29, 2012 by The Director of Digital Media

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Laura Marder has constantly been in our community’s thoughts since she left us recently for America; and her recent post reminded us of Mary-Brett‘s post from her Pardes Summer ’11 program… M-B also spoke about the Gift of Life at Pardes this Fall, and many more Pardesniks got swabbed when the Gift of Life representative visited us during community lunch!

[expand title=”Here is M-B’s post from Pardes Summer ’11”]


the sign had said.
I’ve seen that sign before.
I’ve made that sign.


For the past three years, I have volunteered at Ohio University’s Bone Marrow Drive. It’s been Hillel’s Tikkum Olam project, and because I am really passionate about Hillel, I became really passionate about Gift of Life. At least that’s how it started: creating Jewish spaces, planning Hillel programs, and of course you can’t be a Jewish organization without a social justice project, so Gift of Life was ours.

But then suddenly I was in the immediate and desperate thick of registering as many people as possible. Stopping every week at a swabbing table to yell out to the world: “Have you been swabbed for our bone marrow drive?” Answered questions: “What does this mean? Does it take long? Does it hurt?” I carried tables around campus, counted forms, stuck labels, all the while telling everyone who would listen: “You could save a life.”

The passion for saving lives washed over me unnoticed. One day I was dialoguing with Jewish students about their Jewish experience and identity. I was buying them cups of coffee and hearing their fears and goals and needs to be connected to something more meaningful. Then more coffee, and more dialogue about what it meant to be a part of a national bone marrow registry; then explaining how easy it is to save lives.  Is there difference in these two conversations? Connecting students to meaningful experiences; inviting them into a wider community of social intention? I stopped seeing lines between the two.

Seeing the Gift of Life poster hanging in the Pardes lunchroom was thrilling. This moment and this small piece of paper brought me home seven thousand miles away. So often we become different people when we go to unfamiliar places; we try on new shoes. My feet stood high on the chair I’d climbed into. My shoes held tight.

“Hi everyone,” I say loudly. “I am Mary Brett, your classmate.” They are looking at me, expecting something. “Let me tell you how you can live your Torah study. Let me tell you how you can save a life.” And I told them about Gift of Life, and how I spend some of my more meaningful moments on soapboxes, asking people for a few minutes, for a few cheek cells. It’s that easy.

The Gift of Life swabbers came during lunch, and in this desert place across the sea, I was a swabber too. 10 seconds on the right cheek; 10 seconds on the cheek left; a front and a back page of paperwork; four stickered labels: it’s become a dance I am happy repeating.

Friends come up to me and say things: it’s wonderful you do this; I was swabbed years ago; I swabbed last year; I swabbed today. But the words that make me most happy are the words that say, “I want to do this too; I want them on my college campus; I want my students involved.”

“Let’s get coffee,” I tell them, smiling and feeling at home in this place.[/expand]