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May 13, 2020 11:24 am

Orthodox Jews Are Half of Covid-19 Plasma Donors, Doctor Tells New York Times

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avatar by Ira Stoll


Menashe Sadik, of Baltimore, Md., reads scripture while donating blood at the Blood Bank of Delmarva. Photo: Damian Giletto / Delaware News Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

The New York Times is drawing praise for an article highlighting the frequency of plasma donation in the Orthodox Jewish community.

The plasma — a blood product rich in antibodies that may help Covid-19 patients — comes from Jews who had the coronavirus and have since recovered. Some of the donors traveled from New York all the way to Pennsylvania to donate.

The article, by Liam Stack, quotes a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Michael Joyner, who told the Times that Jews — who are considerably less than 5% of the US population — may account for more than half of the donors in his study.

Thousands of recovered Covid-19 patients nationwide have donated blood plasma in recent weeks, said Dr. Joyner, who is leading a study at the Mayo Clinic in the use of plasma to treat patients with severe Covid-19.

“By far the largest group is our Orthodox friends in New York City,” said Dr. Joyner, who noted more than 5,000 patients across the country had received plasma treatment so far. “I would be shocked if they were less than half the total.”

WhoWeAre, a social media campaign aimed at “Highlighting the kindness, unity & heroism in the Orthodox Jewish Community,” shared the article with the comment, “An eye opening article on the rush to save lives by the talented @liamstack who sheds light on the incredible lifesaving campaign.”

Joel Petlin, the superintendent of the Kiryas Joel School District in New York, commented, “A beautiful story that needs to be told. Thank you for sharing this uplifting description of how the Hasidic Jewish community is rallying to help fight Covid-19.”

Ami Magazine, a weekly publication geared to an Orthodox Jewish audience tweeted, “A positive story in the @nytimes about the #Jewish community. Appreciated.”

The Times article is headlined, “Hasidic Jews, Hit Hard by the Outbreak, Flock to Donate Plasma.”

The article was greeted with skepticism from other Times readers, who, echoing earlier Times coverage, blamed Orthodox Jews, or as at least one popular comment put it, “these people,” for contributing to the spread of the disease and dismissed the plasma donation as an image-buffing public relations effort.

I visited my brother in Boro Park, Brooklyn. There were signs posted outdoors in Yiddish and rabbinic Hebrew that Jews should donate plasma in order to prevent hostility from non-Jews,” one commenter on the Times website said. “The donations were not so much altruism as self-preservation. As someone who grew up and left the very insular Hasidic community of Boro Park, I know what is told to journalists from outside is more for public relations, than what is actually felt.”

Another Times commenter, upvoted by 88 other readers wrote, “I am glad these people are contributing towards more scientific knowledge of this pandemic, I am disgusted at their blatant disregard for public health findings. This is not the first time this community has been part of an outbreak and it won’t be the last. This is the real theme of this article.”

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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