Organ donations are a life-changing gift

Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel | Christopher Boston, Noah Chertkoff, Peg Mcgonigal And Joanne Grunau

As we head into Thanksgiving and the ensuing holiday season, religion and faith will play a central role in the celebrations and traditions of many. Friday through Sunday, people of all different backgrounds and faith traditions will come together to acknowledge the National Donor Sabbath. This annual observance reminds us that nearly all major religions support organ, tissue and eye donation and share in the belief that it's the ultimate act of love and generosity.

Pope Francis, who brought his message of kindness and generosity to the United States earlier this year, described organ donation as "a testimony of love for our neighbor." Since people often turn to their religious leaders for help when dealing with life-and-death issues, the National Donor Sabbath provides an opportunity for faith communities to share their views and encourage dialogue about organ, tissue and eye donation.

In many African-American communities the church — often the central neighborhood gathering place — plays a strong teaching role not just in matters of religion but also in matters of community importance, including organ, eye and tissue donation. Often the questions are asked, "How can I be a good steward of the life God has given me?" and "How can I use that life to help someone else?"

In some religious denominations, including Orthodox Judaism, groups such as the Halachic Organ Donation Society are focusing on expanding conversations and offering choices about donation that accommodate specific beliefs (and a growing number of Orthodox rabbis are affirming the choice to be donors themselves). Many who follow Reform Judaism believe that saving a life is of paramount importance, overriding concerns within Jewish tradition that might appear to stand in the way of organ donation. Continue reading