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Soul and Heart

Eytan Kobre

Rabbi Mendel Freedman was an accomplished Bais Yaakov principal in suburban Maryland when he received the report that made his blood freeze: He needed a heart transplant. The news galvanized a slew of tests, anxious waiting, and prayers for a new heart he could live by. And after all that, a final test: to see his student through the same harrowing process.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A bright March afternoon outside the Bais Yaakov elementary school in suburban Baltimore, and Rabbi Mendel Freedman is in his element. School’s out, and Reb Mendel is the traffic conductor for a seemingly endless convoy of car pools in what resembles a frum version of the evacuation of Dunkirk in ’40. Watching him animatedly wave minivan after minivan toward the exit, walkie-talkie in hand, it’s easy to forget that he’s also the principal here of the country’s largest Orthodox girls’ elementary school outside Brooklyn and Lakewood. He makes small talk with the drivers as they go by, but when one particular vehicle comes around the bend, he perks up noticeably. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Weiskind! Hi there, Sarah Naomi!” Rabbi Freedman and young Sarah Naomi share something beyond their love for Bais Yaakov. Both have a good heart — and a new one, at that. They’ve each been through one of the most risk-fraught operations in all of modern medicine — a heart transplant. The principal had his in 2008 and his student just months ago — and both are doing very well, bli ayin hara. About 2,500 heart transplants are performed each year in the US, so the odds of two recipients ending up in the same city, let alone school, are infinitesimal. But here they are. 

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