When Asher Peskowitz heard an appeal for registration in the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry at his synagogue in Kew Gardens, Queens, he made a quick addition to his to-do list.
Problem was, with days to go until his wedding, the list was too long to find time for the registry, which matches potential donors with those in need of a marrow transplant.
His solution: "Since I couldn’t come to them, I decided to bring them to me."
To the surprise of some 400 wedding guests last month at the Rose Castle catering hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, six volunteers from the Gift of Life set up tables at the wedding. The registry focuses on Jews of Eastern European descent like Peskowitz and his bride, Kimberly Moskowitz.
Following the ceremony, the couple led the charge to fill out the necessary forms and have their inner cheeks swabbed to submit a chromosome sample for the registry.
About 90 guests followed their example, and many told Peskowitz they had already registered.
"It was a wonderful thing, starting off their lives together on the right foot by doing a mitzvah," said Moskowitz’s aunt, Marilyn Mandel.
The marrow registry began in 1991 as a successful effort to locate an eligible donor for Jay Feinberg of New Jersey, who suffered from leukemia. In its first four years the organization signed up nearly 60,000 donors for the National Marrow Donor Program in the United States, as well as other national registries in Canada, Israel and South Africa. Feinberg received his transplant in 1995, and remains involved in the organization.
Feinberg, now 35 and living in Boca Raton, Fla., hopes the Peskowitz wedding will set a precedent.
"This was a first," he told The Jewish Week, "although we’ve done donor drives before at a couple of bar mitzvahs. We’re excited about the prospect of doing more drives at events and other family gatherings."
Feinberg notes that potential donors, who no longer need to submit a blood sample, can request a home registration kit on-line via the Gift of Life Web site. Donors must be younger than 61.
Peskowitz, 24, an accountant with PriceWaterhouse Coopers, had learned about the registry as a child but was too young to sign up. But when he heard about the case of a young girl in Israel in need of a transplant, Bracha Naomi Mandelbaum, he didn’t want to miss another chance.
"I was shocked to learn that 99 percent of the Eastern European Jewish community hasn’t registered," said Peskowitz, a graduate of the Yeshiva of the South Shore in Hewlett, L.I.
For information, call (800) 9MARROW, or visit www.giftoflife.org.