“I was raised to believe that all Jews are responsible for each other, and I embrace this philosophy each day. I have found great personal satisfaction in advocating for the rights of others, both individually — one patient at a time— and collectively, by helping to impact public policy.”
One in 200 people will need a stem cell transplant in their lifetime; yet the greatest barrier to receiving the treatment that can cure their disease is finding a suitable donor. Tissue type is ethnically determined, so a patient’s best chance of finding a genetic match lies with those of similar ancestry. Gift of Life has been a world leader facilitating these life-saving treatments through its public donor registry and commitment to equal opportunity through ethnic diversity.
Since its inception in 1991 during the high profile campaign to save the life of its founder, Jay Feinberg, Gift of Life has recruited over 600,000 bone marrow donors and has subsequently identified over 15,000 matches through 13,000 donor drives and facilitated 3,300 transplants in 48 countries.
Gift of Life’s success can be attributed in great measure to its founder’s entrepreneurial approach to building the registry and ensuring the highest quality services. Among Gift of Life’s innovations include the use of cheek swabs in lieu of blood tests at donor drives; paperless mobile recruitment; and the use of specialized systems and algorithms to optimize donor retention and turnaround time. Its “firsts” have been catalysts for industry shifts in process and technology now employed by other registries around the world.
When it was established 27 years ago, the likelihood of a Jewish patient finding a match was under five percent. Today that number exceeds 75 percent, thanks in great measure to Gift of Life’s commitment to increasing the ethnic diversity of the global donor pool. Today, Gift of Life’s recruitment model is being replicated to help give other underserved populations an equal opportunity to find the donors that can save their lives.
When Jay Feinberg was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize in 2004, Charles Bronfman described him as a Jewish hero. Feinberg is singularly passionate about the proposition that every person battling blood cancer deserves a second chance at life, and about engaging the public to recognize that the cure is within each of us. Shortly after graduating from college, Feinberg was diagnosed with leukemia and told he needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. He used his personal crisis to create a lifesaving grassroots movement that ultimately became the Gift of Life Marrow Registry.
Under Feinberg’s leadership, Gift of Life has become a world leader in its field. The organization was one of the first to be accredited by the World Marrow Donor Association and has facilitated transplants for more than 3,300 patients battling blood cancer. The organization is also knows as an innovator – among its firsts include the use of cheek swabs in lieu of blood tests at donor drives, the use of paperless mobile registration and more.
Gift of Life’s membership ranks have grown over the years through strategic partnerships with organizations including Taglit-Birthright Israel, Hillel International and others. Its specialized high school and college campus internship programs have engaged, educated and enrolled tens of thousands of new potential donors – teaching them Jewish values, community activism and leadership skills that will last a lifetime.
Prior to winning the Prize, Feinberg served on public policy forums with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the New Jersey Department of Health, and the board of directors of the World Marrow Donor Association. Notable honors and recognitions include the National Marrow Donor’s Program Allison Atlas Award, Hadassah International’s World Citizenship Award, and an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University, the Maurice N. Eisendrath “Bearer of Light” Award from the Union for Reform Judaism, the Jewish Community Hero award from the Jewish Federations of North America and more. Feinberg has also been named on the Algemeiner Journal’s “Jewish 100 List of the Top One Hundred Individuals Positively Influencing Jewish Life.” He received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and lives in Boca Raton, Florida.
AWARD PRESENTATION: Jay Feinberg
Every person battling blood cancer deserves a second chance at life. It's about engaging the public to recognize that the cure is within each of us. Gift of Life’s recruitment model is being replicated to help give other underserved populations an equal opportunity to find the donors that can save their lives.WATCH HERE