Jay Feinberg, from Boca Raton, Florida, was the worthy recipient of the 2010 Jewish Community Hero Award. Jay’s own struggle to find a bone marrow match, after being diagnosed with leukemia, inspired him to found the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, which is the only registry in the world founded and directed by a transplant recipient.
Jay has made it his life’s work to save people in need of transplants by increasing the representation of Jewish people in the worldwide bone marrow registry, in order to overcome the devastating effects of the Holocaust which severed so many family bloodlines.
“I often tell people that I am not a hero,” said Jay Feinberg. “The people who save lives are the heroes—the bone marrow donors, the volunteers who organize the recruitment drives—they are remarkable people. I may be the one facilitating that process, but as a transplant recipient, I have a different perspective on matters—I am giving back to the community that saved my life—the Jewish community. I am forever grateful for that gift, and proud to be Jewish.”
The award marked the culmination of the second annual Jewish Community Heroes contest, in which more than 300,000 votes were cast online to recognize the selflessness and courage of those who are helping their communities through volunteer service.
According to the Gift of Life website:
Jay found his nomination, and subsequent appointment as Jewish Community Hero a positive and re-affirming experience. Prior to the ceremony, he wrote to his staff, “Whether I am selected or not, this process has cast a spotlight on the important work that we do here at Gift of Life. Each and every one of you is a hero to our patients and to me!” He also realizes that being in the company of the other nominees and finalists was truly humbling.
What started as a grassroots effort, known as “Friends of Jay,” saved his life, and has turned into his life’s work. A fifteen-year transplant survivor himself, Jay knows first-hand how important finding a match is to every patient in need. He remembers his extensive search and how his own miracle match was the very last of 60,000 people tested over a four year period. Those people tested saved hundreds of other people’s lives, and Jay made the conscious decision that he couldn’t turn his back and walk away The path of his life was changed, and since then his commitment has only intensified. The Friends of Jay became the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. His vision has remained the same; A match. Anytime. Anywhere. For anyone.