TORONTO — Canadian alumni of Birthright Israel may have an especially personal reason to take part in bone marrow registries being held in the Toronto area April 28 and May 5.
Guy Bar Yosef – a 39-year-old Israeli husband and father of five young children, who served as a guide to many Canadian Birthright participants – is suffering from lymphoma, and needs a bone marrow transplant.
The drive for him will also help others like Jayden Roll, 4, Sarah Watkin, 5, and Idan Goldshmid, 18 months, who, like Bar Yosef, are waiting for life-saving transplants, said Nathaniel Haeems, a Birthright alumnus and one of the organizers of the drive.
Anyone from 18 to 60 can register as a donor. Testing involves only a cheek swab.
Bar Yosef’s best chance of finding a match lies with donors of similar genetic ancestry, particularly those of eastern European descent, according to a Facebook event page.
The organizing team includes Haeems and fellow volunteers Ryan Levey and Marla Pilpel, Marla’s brother Shayne Pilpel, who works for Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation in Florida, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto.
Haeems, an Oakville-based management consultant who led seven Birthright trips, told The CJN April 24 that Bar Yosef was in hospital recovering from pneumonia, but that his spirits were high and he was “thankful for all the support… He has asked us to pray for him.”
He added, “Guy’s such a wonderful person… He’s got a can-do attitude, he’s always happy, always smiling.”
Bar Yosef, the son of an American mother who (himself) became more religious over the years, connected to participants in part because of his background and resulting understanding of the North American Jewish community, including its broad spectrum of observance, Haeems said.
Other drives have taken place in Baltimore and California, he added.
The first drive will take place April 28 from 9 to 5 at the Schwartz-Reisman Centre, 9600 Bathurst St. in Vaughan, Ont., in conjunction with the 7th Annual Hoops 4 Israel basketball tournament.
The second will be held May 5, from 9 to 3, at the Prosserman JCC, 4588 Bathurst St.
Donations to fund cheek swab testing can be sent to Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, 800 Yamato Road, Ste. 101, Boca Raton, Fla. 33431. The foundation can be reached by phone at 1-800-9MARROW.
For further information, call 647-782-9800 or email BeGuysHero@gmail.com.