Maintaining one’s health is a vital Jewish value. Tradition teaches that our bodies are not ours, but are on loan from God and we are therefore obligated to protect and preserve them. The imperative of saving a life is so great that all but three of Judaism’s religious commandments can be suspended if a life is at stake, a concept known as pikuach nefesh. Here are some ways to support Jewish groups active in promoting health. Here are some places to donate if you are interested in supporting Jewish health organizations.
One of the largest Jewish organizations in the world, Hadassah was founded in 1912 to serve the health needs of those living in pre-state Israel. Today, the organization raises millions to support its medical efforts in Israel, which include two large medical campuses in Jerusalem that treat over 1 million patients annually regardless of race or religion.
Sharsheret supports Jewish women facing breast cancer, a disease that disproportionately affects Jews. Founded in 2001 by a young Jewish mother diagnosed with breast cancer, the group’s educational and support programs are available free of charge to patients and families across the United States.
Chai Lifeline provides a range of support services to Jewish children battling serious illness and their families. Based in New York but operating a dozen regional offices around the world, the organization runs a summer camp for sick kids, delivers kosher meals to hospitals, helps respond to denials of coverage by insurance companies, and much more. The group runs a network of over 7,000 volunteers worldwide and does not charge for its services.
There are some 40 diseases that have been identified as Jewish genetic diseases, rare disorders that are far more prevalent among people with Jewish ancestry than in the general population. The best prevention against these diseases is screening for the recessive genes that cause them. Based in Atlanta, JScreen provides families with an affordable and accessible at-home saliva-based screen for 80+ genetic diseases.
This Orthodox nonprofit, known as HODS, works to increase organ donation in the Jewish community through education and outreach aimed at countering the common misperception that organ donation runs afoul of Jewish law. The group has developed a halachic organ donor card that allows holders to register as organ donors while ensuring that the donation process is carried out in accordance with Jewish law and at the direction of a rabbi.