Thousands of Orthodox Jews in New York are donating blood plasma after recovering from coronavirus in order to help in the ongoing fight against the illness, according to Forward.
When people recover from coronavirus they develop antibodies called convalescent plasma. Researchers are hopeful that the plasma can be used to help boost patients ability to fight the virus.
Dr. David Reich is the president and chief operating officer for Mount Sinai hospital system’s plasma collection. He says that over half of the donors have been Orthodox Jews.
Donations from the community started pouring in around late March after Dr. Samuel Shoham who is an infectious disease expert at John Hopkins University, connected with his friend—Chaim Lebovits—a shoe wholesaler from Monsey who is an Orthodox Jew.
The virus hit the community hard and Shoham assumed that many people there would have the antibodies necessary for treating patients and conducting research.
“I had no idea that he would drop everything and completely immerse himself in this,” Shoham said. “[Lebovits] is giving his community members a chance to do something, now that they have this power in their body to make a difference.”
The one-man effort snowballed into a large project that would eventually see Jewish people who have already beat the virus join with hospitals in the New York area to donate plasma.
Lebovits said he has collected tests from Orthodox hubs and sent them to Montefiore and Mount Sinai network hospitals. He has also sent them to urgent care centres that are able to distribute them to other bigger labs and Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic.
Lebovits told Forward that plasma has now been donated by over 3,000 people in the region and many more are being tested to find out if they hold the antibodies.
He hopes that in total, plasma will be donated by over 45,000 people in the Orthodox community in New York.
“The plasma isn’t just used for [religious Jews] or Jewish people,” he said. “It’s for people in general. We as observant Jews have an obligation to preserve life, and save life, and help as many people as we can.”
Lebovits lost his brother Yitzchak to cancer last week.
“He personally asked, when I was with him the last time, that regardless of what happens to him, I should make sure to not stop this effort,” Lebovits said. He has now named the project for his brother.
Lebovits said he will stop and grieve when it’s all over but not yet.
“I don’t think I have the right to be selfish, when other peoples’ lives are at stake,” he said.