Rabbi gave his kidney to a stranger - with love

A father-of-three, who had not even had a general anaesthetic until two weeks ago, is recovering after donating his kidney to an Israeli stranger.

Chabad rabbi Avi Richler, 29, who lives in New Jersey, had never considered donating an organ before last summer, when an article on a Jewish news website, about an Israeli's desperate need for a transplant, caught his eye.

"I had an epiphany," said the rabbi, whose wife is expecting their fourth child any day now. "It was about a 48-year-old man who had three kids, like me. That was what really hit me."

Rabbi Richler, who was aware that transplants from living donors had a higher success rate, said he started to think that "in life you either give or you receive".

"It could be me on the bed waiting for someone to come forward, and I'd rather be the one giving than receiving. I was sold."

Rabbi Richler said that having surgery [to help a secular Israeli] not long after a negative spotlight had been thrown on the strictly Orthodox Jewish world due to the protests in Bet Shemesh, could actually be seen as a positive.

"The people in Bet Shemesh are extremists, a minority. I'm not one to look for fame and I didn't do it to prove a point, but the message of love and unity has come at the right time."

Rabbi Richler's recipient, who has asked to remain anonymous, flew from Israel to the US for the surgery. It was the first time the two had met.

"We spent time together after the surgery, and we were recovering in adjacent rooms." He said that while communication was difficult - "my Hebrew is not the best and his English is almost non-existent" - there was "a feeling of brotherhood.

"I'm grateful to be in such health to do a mitzvah like this," said Rabbi Richler. He said he hoped his decision to, quite literally, give of himself would inspire others. "A year ago, I didn't think I'd be recovering from this, but life is full of surprises".

    Last updated: 1:00pm, January 26 2012