NY Times Promotes Myth That Jews Oppose Organ Donation

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By Ira Stoll

The first paragraph of a New York Times opinion piece inaccurately portrays Judaism as opposed to organ donation.

The Times article, by Ariana Tobin, an “engagement reporter” at the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, begins:

When it comes to death, my family honors all of the Ashkenazi Jewish traditions:…When I got my driver’s license at 16, my mom asked me not to sign the organ donor card because Jews are supposed to be laid to rest in one piece. When I turned 18 and signed it anyway, I couldn’t stop imagining her face when she found out after I’d died in a car accident.

Never mind that Ms. Tobin’s mother isn’t given an opportunity in the Times to offer her side of that story. The anecdote could easily leave Times readers with a false impression.

In fact, while the issue isn’t without complication or controversy, various authorities in Judaism not only do permit organ donation but even encourage it.

Israel’s ministry of health maintains an English-language website contending that “organ donation joins together the highest commandment of life saving and bestowing kindness.”

The Orthodox Union, an Orthodox Jewish group, published an article saying it is a “myth” that Jews are not allowed to donate organs.

The Halachic Organ Donor Society is a non-profit organization that exists entirely for the purpose of saving lives by “increasing organ donations from Jews.”

A Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi in Teaneck, New Jersey, Ephraim Simon, made news by donating one of his kidneys.

I’m not saying that Judaism offers a blanket authorization or that there are no complexities to take into account. But the Times description of Jewish tradition is, as is so often the case in that newspaper, a gross oversimplification that betrays lack of familiarity with contemporary Jewish thought and practice.

That the error comes in the midst of an article bemoaning the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis makes it no less disturbing.

© 2017 The Algemeiner Journal



  1. So Trump is right after all!
    Meanwhile they’re demonstrating that they’re entitled to free speech and free press based on the first ammendment – but myths, lies, slander and fake news is all their right!
    Boycott them!
    Actually there’s no real need since their readership is near zero!

  2. i’m sorry but the times is correct on this one. live organ donor is allowed and whether its encouraged is another story. but the times is talking about donating organs after death which is categorically forbidden regardless of what the modern orthodox community says

      • To take organs out of a dead body is ossur. Period. So I think you should start learning. Donating a kidney while you’re alive is an entirely different subject and up for plenty of debate.

        • Congrats on first rate Am haaratzes! really top shape. You make MAtzav editors look like Lomdanim
          Im sure there are shitahs that disallow donations after death but this is by far the minority. By far most hold taking organs from a dead body to benefit a sick person is allowed

          As to when death his determined , that is a whole other (albeit related) subject

    • “but the times is talking about donating organs after death which is categorically forbidden”
      Not true! you don’t know the Halacha. There is only one Torah for everyone.

  3. Why should we be ashamed that the Torah almost always prohibits organ donation from a brain dead Yid? I don’t have problems that the writer signed yes on her card, which actually means that things will be done without consideration for halacha even in the exceptional cases it could be allowed. We all can be observant or not so. On the other hand I am very disturbed that the article presents her choices as compatible with Judaism in a way that can mislead unlearned people. I think the NYT is presenting the facts more or less accurately in this specific case.

  4. Please ask your rov before signing on donating your organs in event of a car crash r’l.

    The NYT is wrong is one aspect. (If the topic is Orthodox Judaism you can be sure The New York Times will have to be wrong about at least something) They refer to the opposition as being “Ashkenazi Jewish traditions” rather than a concern of killing someone who is still halachicly alive.

    I was told by non-Jewish phlebotomists that the Boro Park and Williamsburg blood drives are so successful they are unparalleled in any other community in the US


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