The gift of life
Photo: Courtesy Susanne Rosenhouse
Yehuda Kramer and Susanne Rosenhouse visited at Medical City Dallas Hospital May 15, 2024, less than 24 hours after he provided her a lifesaving kidney transplant.

‘Love thy neighbor’ defined with lifesaving transplant

By Deb Silverthorn

The gift of life was wrapped up and delivered to Susanne Rosenhouse when, after a Renewal swabbing event Jan. 28 at the Aaron Family JCC, fellow Dallas resident Yehuda Kramer was found to be a match. On May 14, at Medical City Dallas Hospital, a successful kidney transplant was executed between Rosenhouse and Kramer; a lifelong bond was forged.

“Of course, I hoped and prayed that a donor would come from our event or from anywhere else in the country; but when the reality of the match came through, and the donor was a neighbor who attends my shul and lives just streets away? Unbelievable,” said Rosenhouse.

“I want our story to inspire others to learn from our experience. I hope everyone registers to become a donor after their passing, but I really hope they will also consider registering to become a living donor.”

Susanne is the wife of Evan Rosenhouse and mother of two. She has focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a rare kidney disease that causes scarring in the filters of the kidneys. Her three brothers have varied kidney-related medical concerns as well.

Her father, Harvey Goldstone, who also suffered from FSGS, was living in Southern California, where the prospect of receiving a kidney could take a decade. Rosenhouse brought him to Dallas in 2015 to register with Baylor Hospital’s transplant program and, while visiting Dallas over Sukkot in 2017, he received the call that a kidney donor was found. He received a transplant and remains in good health today.

“Dad stayed for two months after surgery and we were his caretakers, so we knew the protocol,” said Rosenhouse, social media coordinator for the National Jewish Outreach Program.

A California native, Rosenhouse went to Stern College/Yeshiva University, where she met her future husband, a Dallas native who had attended Akiba Yavneh Academy. The family, including his parents Marilyn and Minton Rosenhouse and brothers David and Michael, has been affiliated through the years with Chabad of Dallas, Congregation Shearith Israel and Tiferet Israel Congregation.

“When I got the call with my match, I was happy and relieved. I didn’t know the donor until the day before the surgery when, during pre-op testing, Yehuda walked in,” she said. “He said he was there for ‘a procedure’ the next day. He’s an exemplary guy with an amazing neshama.”

Just over three months earlier, Kramer had shown up to the J to support the Renewal event. To his surprise, the unimaginable came true.

“I knew all the work that had gone into planning the event and I wanted to support the organizers and those who needed a transplant,” said Kramer, a native of Queens, New York. He had graduated from Texas Torah Institute’s high school program and pursued four years of graduate study before returning to New York. He and his wife Dina spent a year in Dallas, moved to the East Coast and, in 2021, returned to the community he remembered fondly and where they are now raising their three children.

Evan, Alex, Becca and Susanne Rosenhouse celebrate Susanne’s gift of life, a healthy kidney transplant which occurred on May 14, 2024.

“I received a call two-and-a-half weeks later but because I have a New York area code, the caller didn’t realize that Susanne and I lived a four-minute walk from one another,” he said. “I’m doing well, I’m back to work and my kids are learning about giving to others in a very special way.”

Kramer’s wife had followed Rosenhouse’s journey as documented on her Facebook page. In case the transplant couldn’t go through, it was recommended to Kramer that, although he knew his prospective recipient, he should keep the information to himself.

At a Shabbat kiddush before Passover, Kramer and Rosenhouse’s husband were visiting and talking about the upcoming holiday. Kramer was told that Rosenhouse’s plans were tentative as a donor had been identified. Kramer said he smiled inwardly and wished the couple good fortune and healing, not revealing he was the match.

A senior consultant with Pinecrest Consulting, Kramer explained he was in the hospital nearly 24 hours; aside from much less pain than he imagined and general recovery which includes not lifting heavy items for six to eight weeks, he is doing very well.

“I had known a number of people who were donors through Renewal and I now want to be someone people hear encouragement from,” he added. “Susanne, thank G-d, is doing well, I’m fine and our families are now bonded forever through what has been a wonderful event.”

The January swabbing and information event garnered more than 100 attendees. It supported Dallas residents Linda Blasnik, Ellen Bock, Brian Goldenberg, Michael Graubard, Tracey Messerly and Rosenhouse, all in need of kidney transplants. With the United Network for Organ Sharing reporting close to 93,000 prospective recipients awaiting a transplant, the average wait time is four months to six years.

Volunteering at the event was Aaron Schick, the son of former Dallas residents Malkie and Rabbi Jonathan Schick. Following in the footsteps of his uncle Rabbi Larry Rothwachs of Teaneck, New Jersey, one of the first donors in the Renewal program, last summer Schick too gave the gift of life.

“I saw my uncle’s mitzvah and wanted to follow him. I swabbed three years ago and last year got called to match,” said Schick, who attended Akiba Yavneh Academy and graduated from Torah Day School of Dallas and Texas Torah Institute.

“I went to Los Angeles for the transplant, stayed two weeks to be sure I was OK and I’ve had no issues. I’ve stayed in touch with my recipient and he’s well. For sure I recommend the opportunity to save a life.”

A Renewal swabbing event was held at the Aaron Family JCC Jan. 28, 2024, to identify prospective kidney donors for six Dallas-area patients in need. Clockwise from left: Aaron Schick, Wayne Lampert, Merissa Kogutt, Yehuda Kramer and Nechama Katz. Kramer ended up matching with his eruv neighbor Susanne Rosenhouse.

Karen Schlosberg coordinated the swabbing event.

 “I’m so happy for Susanne, so appreciative of Yehuda and look forward to celebrating their good health soon, I pray for Linda, Ellen, Brian, Michael and Tammy. This is a second chance of life — such a gift,” Schlossberg said.

Renewal sent a representative who was with the Rosenhouse and Kramer families the day of the surgery and has offered support in the aftermath.

“It’s a privilege to be a part of this miracle. We are now in varied stages of testing for a number of the Dallas patients and we hope to help them also to good health,” said Rabbi Josh Sturm, Renewal’s director of outreach.

Rosenhouse is recovering and taking time off work with her family and her mother Adrianne. On Monday, June 3, Rosenhouse visited Akiba Yavneh Academy, which her children attend. She received a blessing from AYA’s Rabbi Meir Sabo and then offered Birkat Hagomel, a prayer said after recovering from a serious illness.

“To be at the school, next door to the hospital where my lifesaving surgery was performed, was really beautiful,” she said.

The Talmud teaches, “Whosoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved the entire world.” For Rabbi Aryeh Rodin of Congregation Ohev Shalom, where both the Kramer and Rosenhouse families are affiliated, the connection of the two, now forever, is tremendous.

“For Susanne and Yehuda to be so close, yet become bonded this way? The Al-mighty works in special ways. People say it’s a small world, but really it’s a big world run by Hashem, in a very special way,” Rodin said. “There is a master plan at work for sure.

“The Hebrew word ‘vnasnu’ is a palindrome — the same forward and backward. You give and you get a gift,” added Rodin. “Kudos to Yehuda, who was a great student at TTI and involved in our community then. For sure we are glad to have him and now his family here, certainly in this most meaningful moment.”

For more information about Renewal, or to learn how you test to see if you are a match for the other Dallas residents still searching for their own kidney donors, visit Renewal.org or email jsturm@renewal.org.

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