Jewish Women Honor Friend with Blood Drive

Jewish Women Honor Friend with Blood Drive

Atlantan Bev Saltzman Lewyn brought attention to a national blood shortage. Her friends have organized “The Big Give.”

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Organizers of “The Big Give” (left to right): Jodi Wittenberg, Elizabeth Schoen, Marcy Kalnitz, Ella Katz, Liraz Beldie, Yael Katz, Dawn Siegel, Ayla Cohen, and Terry Cohen.
Organizers of “The Big Give” (left to right): Jodi Wittenberg, Elizabeth Schoen, Marcy Kalnitz, Ella Katz, Liraz Beldie, Yael Katz, Dawn Siegel, Ayla Cohen, and Terry Cohen.

Friends of a woman being treated for a blood-related cancer have planned a three-day, Jewish-themed blood drive.

Organizers of “The Big Give” want at least 613 people to donate blood June 8-10, that number drawn from the 613 commandments (or mitzvot) in the Torah.

The blood drive will be held in Heritage Hall at Congregation Beth Jacob in Toco Hills. Donations will be taken from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 8 and 9 and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 10. Reservations can be made at, though walk-ins will be welcomed. Donors must be 16-years or older or have permission from a parent or guardian.

The organizers are friends of Bev Saltzman Lewyn, who has been receiving treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in her hometown of Houston and continues to commute to the hospital from her parents’ home there.

When a national blood shortage impacted Lewyn’s ability to receive transfusions, the former CNN news research coordinator publicized the problem — even doing a live interview with a Houston television station during chemotherapy infusion, with her phone balanced on the pole holding the intravenous drip.

“It was horrifying to think that any patient there to get well couldn’t because of a shortage that wasn’t well publicized at all,” Lewyn, 54, told the AJT in March.

There is a particular shortage of type O-negative blood (Lewyn’s type, found in 7 percent of the population), which is prized because it can be transfused into patients with other blood types.

Modeling “The Big Give” t-shirt (left to right): Siena Joel, Marci Joel, and Kayla Joel.

The blood drive is being coordinated with LiveSouth Community Blood Centers, a community blood bank serving 125 hospitals in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

Jodi Wittenberg, one of the blood drive organizers, said, “Bev called out attention to this blood shortage, so her friends are answering. This was the best her friends could do to love her, support her, and honor her.” T-shirts made for the event read “everyone’s got a type” on the front and “BEV is our type” on the back.

Lewyn knew nothing of the blood drive until the organizers sent her pictures of themselves wearing the t-shirts. “I cried! And I was speechless! Just amazing,” she said by text from Houston.

Lewyn and her husband, Marc, are members of Beth Jacob, Congregation Ohr HaTorah, the New Toco Shul, and Marc also attends Chabad of Toco Hills. Along with Toco Hills congregations, another backer is the Jewish Women’s Connection, an organization of which Lewyn was a co-founder.

In addition to Wittenberg, the organizers include Pam Glinsky, Marci Joel, Marcy Kalnitz, Terry Cohen, Elizabeth Schoen, Donna Adler, Yael Katz and Dawn Siegel. Students from Atlanta Jewish Academy — Ella Katz, Ayla Cohen, Kayla Joel and Siena Joel — will staff a childcare room with snacks and activities for parents donating.

Lewyn said in March: “I would actually beg the Jewish community in Atlanta to give blood and publicize the need. It is critical to save the lives of cancer patients. Everyone has been touched by cancer. I would like to see public service campaigns better educate the public about this. I think more people would run to give if they knew cancer patients were being prevented from getting well because of the awful national blood shortage. And I would say to those whose blood type is O-negative, you are angels on earth. G-d gave you the ability to heal any human on the planet.”

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