By Deb Silverthorn
The right place at the right time, or hashgacha pratit, divine providence: However you look at it, Eliezer Eidenbom and Jerry Rodenberg were brought together with blessing and grace. Eidenbom donated a kidney to Rodenberg, sharing with him the gift of life.
“‘Thank you’ will never cover how I feel. Eliezer gave me back my life,” says Rodenberg, who underwent successful transplant surgery April 18, 2023.
“I was scared of the surgery, scared of dying, but so thankful someone had come through for me,” said Rodenberg from his Plano home. The husband of Chana-Yetta, father of two and grandfather of five added that although his coloring was gray when he went in for the surgery, “I woke up with my color back to normal, a smile on my face and the kidney working.”
Rodenberg had let his health slide. He had been retired for many years from General Motors and other jobs and, most recently, from his role as a kashrutsupervisor at the Aaron Family JCC. His doctors had warned him about his high blood pressure and his kidneys ultimately failed.
At the end of 2021, he began 18 months of dialysis.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I know it kept me alive, but it was awful,” he said. “Now, I take nine medications, not 30; my energy is back; and I feel great!”
Just 11 months before the transplant, Eidenbom spent Shabbat at DATA of Plano. Walking out of Saturday morning services, he picked up a flyer publicizing Rodenberg’s search for a donor.
Rabbi Josh Sturm of Renewal had visited DATA of Plano on May 1, 2022, just the week before. His organization is leading the swabbing event on Sunday, Jan. 28, at the Aaron Family JCC supporting six Dallas-area residents each in need of kidney transplants. (Read the full story in the Jan. 11, 2024, edition of the TJP or at www.tjpnews.com.)
Chana-Yetta Rodenberg, the “adopted grandmother” of DATA of Plano, was in the hallway and saw Eidenbom looking at the flyer. She suggested he take a couple of them to share. They were both in the right place at the right time.
“The Talmud teaches us ‘Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,’ all Jews are responsible for one another,” said Rabbi Nesanya Zakon, director of DATA of Plano.
“(It is taught,) Bishvili nivra ha’olam, the world was created for me,” said Zakon. “Not ‘for me’ in a selfish view, but ‘for me’ to contribute what is mine. Without the contribution of each of us, there is a deficiency.”
Eidenbom, a Fort Worth native whose family left Texas by the time he was a teen, returned in 2002 for six years, first working with his father’s home building company, then as youth director at Congregation Ahavath Sholom and later attending Texas A&M University School of Law. After living in the Dallas area as part of the Ohr HaTorah community, he moved to Seattle. Since 2022, he and his family reside in Silver Spring, Maryland.
In May 2022, Eidenbom was visiting his father, who lives in Tyler; he returned to Dallas to spend Shabbat. He had been close to Rabbi Zakon when living in the area years before; they’d tried to connect on two other occasions. The third time was a charm; on that visit, he saw Renewal’s flyer.
“A week before? It wouldn’t have been there,” said Zakon. “Instead, he walked away with a self-driven kavanah, intention, to help.”
Back in Maryland, Eidenbom contacted Renewal only to hear that a prospective donor had been found. He reached out to a local program and offered to go through them; after extensive testing, he was cleared.
One hour later Renewal called and let him know Rodenberg’s prospective donor was found to have medical issues so that match was canceled. Eidenbom was asked if he would he still be interested.
“For years I’d thought maybe someday I would try to be a donor, but it was always just a thought. I couldn’t be happier that, despite some back-and-forth, it worked between Jerry and me,” said Eidenbom. “It’s all Hashem’s planning.”
After waiting for the exchange of records, and some additional testing, Eidenbom and his then-fiancée, now wife, Yonit, flew to Dallas, with all travel-related expenses and lost wages covered by Renewal.
He checked into Medical City Dallas on Monday. Surgery was Tuesday; he was released on Wednesday. Renewal coordinated with Bikur Cholim of Dallas for liquid-only kosher meals during his first hours after the operation and the hospital provided the remainder. After two nights at a hotel, Shabbat at DATA of Plano and 10 days at his father’s home, he returned to Silver Spring.
“I had some discomfort, but each day I felt significantly better. I was back to 100% before long. Except for not taking certain over-the-counter medications, for which there are substitutions, and limiting caffeine, I have no restrictions,” said Eidenbom. “Renewal’s team was supportive and went out of their way all through everything.”
As Renewal readies to return to Dallas next week, hoping to find the right donors for Linda Blasnik, Ellen Bock, Brian Goldenberg, Michael Graubard, Tracey Messerly and Susanne Rosenhouse, the optimism post-transplant for Rodenberg is palatable.
“Our Dallas experiences, for Jerry and others, have been wonderful,” said Sturm, director of outreach at Renewal, which recently celebrated its 1,000th successful transplant.
“The success of this case laid the path for us at Medical City Dallas,” he said. “We hope to return there, to wherever those in need, need us.”
Grateful forever is Rodenberg’s wife. The couple has been together since they met as teens at the JCC in St. Louis 56 years ago. “My husband is healthier than I can remember. What a transformation!” Chana-Yetta said. “You see Hashem’s hand all over our story.”
To register to be swabbed at the Jan. 28 event at the Aaron Family JCC, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Renewal, visit Renewal.org or email email@example.com.Right time and place lead to gift of life for Rodenberg