‘Race Against Time to Save Mum’

The family of a mum-of-two from Kenton, who is undergoing last-ditch treatment for a rare form of cancer, this week made an urgent plea to young Jewish News readers to register as bone marrow donors.

The emotional appeal was issued to those aged between 16 and 30 by Jonni and Caroline Berger, whose mother Sharon has Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.

Sharon, 61, entered a hospital isolation unit on Monday to undergo six weeks of aggressive chemotherapy, at the end of which a matching bone marrow donor needs to have been found.

Jonni said: “It is now a race against time. A match for our mum is most
likely to come from someone in the Ashkenazi community.”

The situation has been exacerbated by a cruel twist of fate. The best chance of a genetic match comes from the immediate family, but while Sharon’s three
siblings all match each other, none are a suitable match for her.

However, her children were determined that their mother’s fate should not come down to a stroke of bad luck, and last month launched the ‘Spit4Mum’ campaign, so named because of the way in which tissue-type is tested.

Orchestrated online through social media networks, their campaign has already increased the number of registrations. They have attended recent community events, such as Limmud and the Juefa football tournament, and have enlisted celebrities, including singers Charlotte Church and Danni Minogue, to help encourage those within the relevant age group to sign up.

“The response from the community has been amazing,” said Caroline. “We have had offers from old friends and fellow community members, as well as people we have never met before. People have offered to set up screening clinics to enable people to join the register.”

Dr Ian Ellis, a clinical geneticist in Liverpool, reinforced the family’s call for donor registrations. He said: “Genetic matches usually come from within the family and the Ashkenazi community is essentially one big genetic family, so there is a specific need for Jewish community members to register as donors.”

Jonni and Caroline’s efforts have already had an impact, and there were signs this week that the community is mobilising. Among the organisations actively supporting the Bergers’ drive were schools, including Emanuel and JCoSS, and youth programmes, including United Synagogues’ Project Chesed and Reform’s RSY-Netzer and Jeneration.

University students across the country were also beginning to show their support, at a time when many sit their January exams. Alex Green, president of the Union of Jewish Students, said: “UJS recognises the urgency and importance of this. We will continue to do our utmost to mobilise Jewish students around
the country to maximise the likelihood of finding a match.”

Sharon’s husband Stephen, who acts a volunteer courier for the Anthony Nolan Trust delivering samples across the country, said he was delighted at the social media frenzy generated by the plight of his wife, but confirmed his family’s desperate calls for young adults to register.

“There must be a bone marrow match for Sharon out there somewhere,” said Stephen. “We just need to find them. Finding a match would be better than winning the lottery.”

Full details of the Spit4Mum campaign can be found online at http://is.gd/Spit4Mum. The Anthony Nolan Trust can be contacted on 0303 303 0303 or online at www.anthonynolan.org. If you would like to support the campaign in your community, contact Jonni Berger at jonni@thebergers.co.uk

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‘Please Help Save My Life’

Marilyn Jacual suffers from a blood disorder that she fears could lead to leukaemia if a suitable match is not found.

The 61-year-old, who was born in the UK but moved to Israel more than 40 years ago, said: “I’m not old. There are so many things I still want to still do in life but without a transplant I won’t be around in a few years time. I would say to anybody that it’s a mitzvah to come forward and you would potentially be helping many people, not just me. It’s just a simple test and even if you’re a match it’s not a painful procedure.”

Despite regular hospital visits, Marilyn continues to work part-time for the American Embassy “to keep me sane”, but is no longer able to go out much. “My kids and five grandchildren come to me,” she said: “It’s the summer holidays and I would generally take time off to help look after them. I haven’t done any of that this year, I just don’t have the energy.”

Since Marilyn was told by doctors six weeks ago that she needed a transplant, her three siblings have been tested – including David Grueneberg, a member of Maidenhead Synagogue, through the Anthony Nolan Trust – and dozens of people have approached Ezer Mizion in Israel in an effort to give the gift of life.

However, a 100 percent match has not been found within the family or in the Israeli charity’s register. “There’s some people that have 100 matches. Unfortunately I don’t. My parents were from Germany so the best chance of finding a match would be a German Jewish background or European background. They have now said they will start searching for a 90 percent match which must mean they are looking quite urgently.”

Marilyn is hoping that one potential match discovered overseas will prove suitable following further testing. She said: “Hopefully if this person doesn’t work out we’ll find someone else. I believe there will be someone out there for me. The kids keep saying everything will be fine and I’ll have a transplant by Rosh Hashanah. That’s what I’d like to think too. It would be a new beginning.”

A spokeswoman for the Anthony Nolan Trust, which overseas the largest register in the UK with 420,000 potential bone marrow donors, said: “There are thousands of tissue types which means there may only be one match for a patient.”

There are around 8,000 Jewish potential donors on the register but the charity urged more to come forward. “Ethnicity is a factor in defining a person’s tissue type so it’s more likely a match will be found within the same ethnic group. We know people from ethnic backgrounds find it harder to find a match. If you’re not a match for Marilyn, you may be able to help someone else. We need people aged 18 to 30 to come forward as the patient has a better chance of good long-term outcomes but we recruit people up to 40.”

- More information at anthonynolan.org

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Hate Taught At London Mosque

It also emerged that preachers at the facility were labelling Christian teachings “vile and disgusting”, while students were being told to “hate those who hate Allah”.

“I believe the Home Office should consider whether these statements breach the law,” said Louise Ellman, the MP for Liverpool Riverside. And describing the revelations as “extremely disturbing”, she urged Muslim authorities to take steps “to stop this incitement”.

Channel 4′s Dispatches, broadcast on Monday night, secretly filmed a women-only prayer circle at the Mosque, at which the teacher called for congregants to “kill, kill” homosexuals, adulterers and those who convert from Islam.

The film was a follow up to the documentary Undercover Mosque, which last year found similar examples of fundamentalism at a number of British mosques. At one, Jews were described as “enemies of Islam”.

When the original documentary was made, the Mosque’s Director said they would “look into the materials in question”. Dr Ahmed Al Dubayan said that “appropriate action will be taken if required in accordance with all relevant U.K. legislation”.

However, there is little sign of any change. Customers can still purchase recordings which say of the Jews: “Their time will come, like every other evil person’s time will come”.

One DVD calls Jews “the leader of pride and arrogance”. Another preaches that disbelievers are “evil, wicked, mischievous people”.

The programme also uncovered books at the UK branch of the Muslim World League which included lines such as “the last day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them”.

Mark Gardner, the Director of Communications at the Community Security Trust, called the findings “depressing but not surprising”.

“The British Muslim community is diverse” he said, but it needs to “clamp down upon extremist propaganda, especially in relation to Jews”.

Other members of the Jewish community echoed his call. Mark Frazer of the Board of Deputies said they “urged all moderate Muslims to remain vigilant in the fight to stamp out Islamic fundamentalism in the UK”.

Members of the moderate British Muslim community also condemned the fundamentalist teachings at the Mosque. Sheikh Musa Admani, an Imam at London Metropolitan University, called it “a distortion of Islam itself”.
“Intolerance, hatred, dislike, these are not Islamic teachings at all,” he said.

Al Dubayan said that the Mosque “does not support or condone extreme views, racial hatred, violence or intolerance”.

When confronted, Um Saleem, one of the mosque’s female teachers, defended her views. “We do criticise other religions, just as other religions criticise Islam,” she said.

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