January 19, 2020

Saving Adam Krief and Etz Jacob

There are moments in the life of a community when crises collide and make us all a little dizzy. Someone might die, a beloved institution may have to close its doors, a family could be left homeless if we don’t step up and help. A sense of urgency permeates the community. You feel it when people bring up the subject at a Shabbat table, or when you bump into someone at the local market. A doctor in an emergency room with a patient who just got shot must have a similar feeling — not a second to waste.

Our community is in one of those crisis moments, only right now we have two crises happening simultaneously. The most heart wrenching is surely that of Adam Krief, a 31-year-old father of three who has been diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer called primary myelofibrosis and who needs a bone marrow transplant in order to stay alive.

For the past few weeks, a community movement has been underway to help Adam find a donor match. There are more than 13 million people already on the national bone marrow registry, but none of them is a match. 

Adam, his wife, Lia, and their friends have created a Hope4Adam campaign to encourage more people to register. It takes only five minutes. All the information is on Hope4Adam.com. In just 10 days, they have registered about 3,000 people. But they need more. This is a numbers game. The more people that register, the greater the chance of finding a match.

Meanwhile, as the community scrambles for Adam, another crisis has hit us: The venerable Jewish day school Perutz Etz Jacob Hebrew Academy has been forced to close its doors after 27 years because it could no longer cover its rising expenses. 

I know the school well. I wrote about it seven years ago, and I titled the story, “Man with seventy children.” The man is Rabbi Shlomo Harrosh, who has been the head of the school since 1994. The “children” are the kids in his school, whom he treats like family.

Do you know a key reason that the school has always had financial problems? Because it never said no. Even if you could not afford the high cost of a Jewish day school, Etz Jacob would never reject you. Think about that: Regardless of any obstacle, the school never rejected a Jew looking for a quality Jewish and secular education. You know what I call that? A mitzvah for all time.

But instead of being rewarded for this mitzvah, the school has been penalized. Not enough people outside of its school community have stepped up to help, so it has been forced to close its doors. 

Now, the school is hoping for some immediate financial help to take care of its students with special needs who could not be placed in other schools. The need is urgent. These kids are currently waiting at home instead of being in class. If anyone reading this can make a major gift, please contact the school at etzjacob@yahoo.com. The community dreams of rebuilding the whole school in the future, but right now it needs immediate help for those kids with special needs.

Both Adam Krief and Etz Jacob are looking for a match. Neither can wait.

As these two crises converge, they remind us that, as Jews, we define “family” in the broadest possible sense. We may put our immediate families first, but the Jewish family that gathered 3,300 years ago at Sinai never leaves our consciousness. This is why we’ll help a Jewish kid in Argentina, even if we live in Beverly Hills. This is why a Jewish organization from America helped my family emigrate from Morocco. We help one another because we’re part of the same family.

Adam Krief is family, and so is Etz Jacob. They need us right now to dig deep, inside our bone marrow, inside our hearts, inside our Jewish souls. They need us to stand up and do what Etz Jacob has always done — say yes.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.