Jewish News drives Rabbi Sacks’ legacy forward in Israel with new MDA UK bloodmobile

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Jewish News drives Rabbi Sacks’ legacy forward in Israel with new MDA UK bloodmobile

Costing £135,000, the life-saving vehicle, carrying the name of the late Chief Rabbi, will collect blood from up to 80 donors a day and save thousands of lives each year.

Lady Sacks at the wheel of the new bloodmobile with MDA UK chief
executive Daniel Burger (left) and Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer
Lady Sacks at the wheel of the new bloodmobile with MDA UK chief executive Daniel Burger (left) and Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer

When King Charles described Lord Sacks as a “light unto this nation” at a dinner marking Lord Sacks’ retirement as Chief Rabbi, looking forward to his continued impact for years to come, he couldn’t have imagined the world would be deprived of his dear friend so soon. 

But now, as educational projects are developed to perpetuate his words and wisdom, a new bloodmobile has been dedicated in Israel that will save countless lives in his memory.

The tribute – conceived by Jewish News’ co-publisher Justin Cohen after Lord Sacks’ untimely death in November 2020 – was unveiled after a fundraising drive by this newspaper and Magen David Adom UK.

Costing £135,000, the life-saving vehicle will traverse the country to collect blood from up to 80 donors a day with each unit split between three recipients, potentially saving thousands of lives each year.

An inscription on one side of the vehicle describes Lord Sacks as a “giant of world Jewry whose impact crossed faiths and borders” and on the other side is a pertinent quote from the man himself: “At the heart of Judaism is the principle of the sanctity of life.”

Lady Sacks receives the keys to the new vehicle at the Marcus National Blood Services Centre in Ramla.

Lady Elaine Sacks said at the dedication ceremony, attended by one of the couple’s sons Josh, son-in-law Elliot Goldstein and Lord Sacks’ brother Elliot: “To remember my dear husband in this life saving way, here in Eretz Yisrael – is so very special.”

Thanking Jewish News’ for coming up with the idea, she said this was the first charity project her family was asked to endorse after the sudden death of her husband.

She also thanked donors that enabled the project to come to fruition including The Bloom Family Foundation, The Dangoor Family in memory of Robert D S Dangoor, Sir Michael and Lady Heller, The Kirsh Foundation, The Livingstone Family, Henry Moser, The Roden Family and The Gerald and Gail Ronson Family Foundation.

Aryeh Myers, of MDA’s international division, recalled the former Chief Rabbi’s participation in Bnei Akiva’s Yom Haatzmaut celebrations at Kinloss. Pride in Judaism and a love of Israel “emanated not only from the words he spoke but from his entire being,” he said. “He didn’t just teach Judaism. He lived it, loved it and spread its importance and relevance, across all corners of the world.”

Eight-year-old Gur, whose late father Dr David Shooman is named on the side of the vehicle

He described giving blood as “real tzedakah, where the donor and recipient don’t know each other. Giving for the sake of giving. Giving for the sake of saving a life.”

The bloodmobile also bears the name of neurosurgeon Dr David Shooman from Leeds, who passed away after a cycling accident in Israel and whose family and friends wanted to contribute in his honour. Gur, the eight-year-old son he never got to meet, was also in attendance and said it was “an honour” for his dad’s name to be on the vehicle, adding: “I hope it saves many lives.”

King Charles with his great friend Rabbi Lord Sacks.

Around 95 percent of blood donations are collected by such mobile vehicles at schools, universities and other institutions, but some of the fleet is nearing two decades old and in need of urgent replacement.

The Sacks bloodmobile will eventually be stationed at MDA’s new state-of-the-art blood bank in Ramla, which it is hoped will enable the collection of 500,000 units a year – double current capacity.

The facility also includes a vault that is capable of withstanding a direct missile hit to hold blood supplies and Israel’s only human milk bank to support premature babies.

The state-of-the-art MDA Marcus National Blood Services Centre in Ramla.

Daniel Burger and Russell Jacobs, CEO and chair of chair of MDA UK, said: “Nothing is more important in Judaism than saving a life no matter a person’s religion or background – an ethos at the core of Magen David Adom’s work.

“As well as being a passionate voice for Israel and active supporter of MDA UK, Rabbi Sacks taught about the importance of respect for all and so it feels particularly fitting to see his name adorning a vehicle that will help save countless lives in the years to come.”

Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer speaking at the dedication in Israel.

The event was also addressed by Dr Eilat Shinar, head of MDA’s blood services and Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer, who said: “King Charles described his great friend Rabbi Sacks as a light unto his nation. With the dedication of this life-saving MDA vehicle, the great man’s light shines brighter still.”

A mezuzah was presented to Lady Sacks by MDA Israel deputy director general Alon Fridman.

British ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan said: “Rabbi Lord Sacks had a truly global impact and was an exceptional ambassador for the Jewish people. It is fitting that part of his lasting legacy will be to save lives on the streets of Israel.”

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