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Rabbi Ephraim Simon

This rabbi saved 2 lives with a pair of organ donations a decade apart


Updated March 14, 2019 06:30 AM EDT

Editor's note: This article was first published Jan. 17. We're bringing it back today in honor of World Kidney Day, observed the second Thursday in March.

NEW YORK (CIRCA) — Things were looking dire for 44-year-old father of three Adam Levitz. With his liver failing as a result of Crohn's disease and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a bile-duct disease, he needed an act of kindness to save his life.

That's when Rabbi Ephraim Simon, a 50-year-old father of nine from Teaneck, New Jersey, stepped in to save the day.

Rabbi Ephraim Simon and Adam Levitz
Rabbi Ephraim Simon, left, and Adam Levitz. (Courtesy Nechamy Simon)

"On Dec. 20, which was three weeks ago, I was able to donate a third of my liver to save somebody's life," Simon said. "That was an incredible, rewarding experience."

The rabbi wasn't sure whether he'd get the opportunity to give his liver. He had already donated a kidney in 2009, and donating multiple organs—even a decade apart—is extremely rare and can be dangerous. Many hospitals in New York and New Jersey refuse to do the operation because of the risk involved. That's how Simon ended up at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where he was tested, approved and put on a donor's list. The match with Levitz was made in October, with the surgery scheduled for Dec. 20.

"He was thanking me for letting me let him give me his liver. I don't know what you say to a guy like that."
Adam Levitz, organ recipient

When the two first connected over the phone, Levitz was surprised to hear the rabbi thanking him.

"He was thanking me for letting me let him give me his liver," Levitz said. "I don't know what you say to a guy like that."

The two spoke on the phone several times a week leading up to the surgery and bonded over their shared love of football.

"One of the main things we would talk about is football," Levitz said. "He knew that I loved football, and he had a love for football. Ironically, his team that he loved was the Cleveland Browns. We happened to be going to Cleveland. I asked him, I go, 'Why do you like the Cleveland Browns so much?' He said, 'Because I love an underdog story.' That's the type of guy he is."

Simon and Levitz bonded over a shared love of football
Simon and Levitz bonded over a shared love of football. (Courtesy Adam Levitz)

Levitz has been feeling great since the successful surgery and is expected to make a full recovery. But he can't kick his amazement with the rabbi's altruism.

"He put his life at risk to save my life," Levitz said. "That's something you can never ever say thank you enough for."

Simon, Levitz and members of Levitz's family
Simon, left, Levitz, center, and members of Levitz's family. (Courtesy Nechamy Simon)

Simon hopes that his act of generosity will inspire others:

"If I can inspire other people to give, whether it's in this manner or really in any manner, the lesson from my story is every one of us can leave our comfort zone and extend ourselves to help another human being in need."


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