Giving the gift of life, one synagogue at a time


People like their routines — shopping on Wednesday, stylist on Thursday, relaxing on Sunday — but there is one routine that has been making its way around the various synagogues in the greater Riverdale area for quite some time.

And it’s all about giving a little blood.

Just a couple weeks ago, it was the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale’s turn to collect blood, partnering up with the New York Blood Center to make it happen. It was all just in time, too, because the beginning of a new year — more or less —also means a new shortage in the blood supply.

“I’ve been doing this more years than I can count,” said the drive organizer, Seryl Ritter. Except it’s not that many — more like 25 years. But still a long time.

“Yeah, it all goes back to before we had this beautiful new building, and we were in the smaller building on the Henry Hudson Parkway. And this community — this Hebrew Institute community — has been very devoted to this.”

Ritter works closely with the Riverdale Jewish Community Partnership, which operates out of The Riverdale Y, and acts as a sort of central clearinghouse for the various synagogues, Jewish institutions and schools.

“We actually schedule these blood drives so we can rotate between the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, the (Riverdale) Jewish Center, SAR High School, The Y, and the Riverdale Temple.”

That means the blood center can visit this part of the Bronx every couple of months, rotating around the different sites. Many who donate choose one location, and that’s where they will show up. And then there are others who will try and visit all the places they can, so long as they give their body enough time to recharge.

“It’s phenomenal that they have this partnership because we literally schedule a blood drive almost every single month at a different location,” said Natasha Chattar, a community liaison representative with the New York Blood Center.

“And you would think, ‘Oh my goodness, the same donors going to the same places. But no, each individual location has their own group of donors.”

But the draw to the Bayit, Ritter says, has to be the snacks. Kosher, of course, and enough to give anyone donating a bit of themselves a chance to replenish that energy.

The drives also offer areas for kids to play in and be active while their parents or grandparents donate, making Sunday a very happening place at the synagogue when the blood drive is in town.

Rabbi Moshe Edelman can’t donate because of his age, but when he did, he really donated — surpassing eight total gallons of blood. He was being honored at the event along with Daniel Padwa, who donated blood in four different states and two different countries.

“I did it in three different synagogues,” Edelman said, with a laugh.

Giving blood “is what Americans should be doing,” the rabbi said. “I think Jews should be doing it, also. You’ve heard of the cooperative kind of relationship that we have with the other synagogues in the area. And it’s just that important. Let’s save lives.”

Edelman has been talking to his doctor about donating blood once again. If a doctor does sign off on it, he can add to that eight gallons — something he hopes to accomplish the next time the blood drive makes its way to the Bayit.

“Next year is going to be a good year for me to give blood,” Edelman said. “I’m going to be turning 80.”

For now, the rabbi is just encouraging everyone he can to donate. And whether they do it at HIR, The Y, Riverdale Temple or anywhere — he hopes they will make the time to make a difference.

“So, back in January, we declared a blood emergency mostly because people were getting sick, and a lot of our donors went away,” Chattar said. “So, now they’re back, and now it’s back into a good swing. But if doesn’t mean we still don’t need everyone to pitch in. And we hope they will.”

Synagogues in Riverdale Jewish community routines Religious routines in Riverdale Greater Riverdale synagogue culture Riverdale synagogue traditions Community engagement in Riverdale synagogues Jewish religious practices in Riverdale Synagogue rituals in Riverdale Jewish life in Riverdale Riverdale synagogue activities