Are Orthodox Jews Really Not Allowed to Accept Blood from Women, Non-Orthodox Jews, and Non-Jews?

I saw this eye-popping headline in my inbox and on Twitter the other day:

Rabbi bans Orthodox Jewish men from taking blood donated by women, non Orthodox Jews, non Jews

The article, which was written by Ryan Lee Hall for YourJewishNews.com, went on to explain that an unnamed rabbi had written about this in a new book:

“Non Orthodox Jews eat bugs, therefore their blood is tainted. Also, as we all know, men and women need to stay segregated, therefore a Jewish man should not take blood even from a Jewish woman,” the rabbi wrote in his new book called, “With Blood You Shall Live.”

This new religious book deals with Jewish laws with regards to blood donations. “Those people eating bugs and meat from dead animals lose their mind, therefore getting blood from such a person will cause the Orthodox Jew to lose their mind as well,” the rabbi wrote.

The source for that information, linked to in the article above, appeared to go into a little more depth… but it’s hard to tell since it’s in Hebrew. I would offer you a rough translation instead, but even that makes little sense. However, the Hebrew article does mention a link to the Israeli blood donation group Lev Malka.

Over the weekend, I contacted Lev Malka to see if there was any truth to the original headline. A spokesperson gave me a very definitive response (which I’ve edited for grammar and clarity below):

In the name of Lev Malka, this is a total fabrication, and misrepresentation of the facts mainly due to erroneous translation of the Hebrew source. Note that there are no references cited for the so-called Rabbi’s ban on donating or receiving blood from the opposite gender.

Quite the contrary, our organization is the largest independent blood donor of Magen David Adom [Israel's emergency blood bank service], to which we have donated over 21,000 pints of blood. We conduct blood drives in Yeshivahs, girls’ schools, banks, medical clinics, and many other public places. We do these for men and women simultaneously, with the proper separation, as per the Halacha requirements. We collect on average 600-700 portions of blood at each such event.

We never ask the recipients of the blood their gender or affiliation. We have no interest in creating our own blood bank as the article insinuates.

Do you think the recipient of blood or a heart, kidney, or other transplant has to check where it came from? This is basic [Pikuach Nefesh, and] there are no discussions about this by any reputable Rabbi.

So that should settle it. Ryan Lee Hall didn’t fact check his work. And atheists need to stop spreading this article around as an example of religious beliefs run amok.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • corps_suk

    Why is this suprising? I am actually suprised they ever did…

    Wasn’t one of the reason chrisitians made up jesus and then jesus gave his blood to regular humans because jews held blood to be divine so sharing it would not be kosher?

    Never-mind the interesting ties to vampires and zombies.

    • ArmadilloBoy

      Did you read past the title of this entry? Your comment makes me think that you fell for the very trap that this post seeks to correct. They do accept blood from those sources, and the rumor that they don’t was a mistranslation.

      • Kengi

        Reading can be difficult for some people. It’s much easier to just react to a few key words.

        • corps_suk

          Kengi is an expert in not comprehending what was read, so they know.

    • JEW

      Tying Jews to vampires and zombies is Anti Semtism Par Excellance!

      Of course anti semtism is rampant in the “New” atheism…from Dawkins decrying the “Notorious Jewish Lobby” in TGD to Harris blaming Jews for “their own victimhood” because the did not assimilate fast enough to suit him.

      The Goyim are still trying to eliminate us.

      They will fail.

      • The Other Weirdo

        We are Jews in space, zooming along, protecting the Hebrew Race. When Goyim attack… (cue a Battlestar Galactica-style space battle)

      • corps_suk

        Well I am equally anti-mythology of all kinds, but I was actually tying vampires and zombies to Christians who drink blood and believe in the walking dead. Does that make it better for you ?

      • Mario Strada

        You are a bit obsessed aren’t you? The moment I read “vampires and zombies” I knew immediately that he was referring to Christians (catholic especially) whom drink their savior blood and eat his flesh.

        But since you came here to call us all racists, it didn’t even occur to you he could have been referring to the christians. Whoops!

        Sorry, you are going to have to invent some other excuse to call us anti-semites.
        We are mostly anti-crazy-shit. To be sure orthodox jews believe a lot of crazy shit but I am far more worried about the christian and Muslim counterpart.

        By the way, how does it feel when an entire political movement supports your ethnicity purely because they play a sacrificial role in their end of the world fantasies?

  • Mara

    I’m embarrassed to admit I fell for this, because I know just how CRAZY the ultra-Orthodox can be. I’ve also posted the correction on my FB feed.

    • JEW

      Ah, more Jew Haters.

      I wonder how many more will come out today?

      • Mara

        Wow, I’m so glad you know all about me! No, wait, I meant the other thing…nothing about me. You know nothing about me.

        I’m Jewish, as it happens. Proud to be Jewish, on the shul newsletter committee, light Shabbos candles every week… And what the ultra-Orthodox are up to is a shonda and an embarrassment to all my Orthodox friends and family.

        I’ve admitted I was wrong about the blood donation thing, because people make mistakes, especially when they feed into their preconceptions. Y’know, like assuming that anyone who criticizes the haredi must be a Jew Hater.

      • baal

        because haters post corrections?

      • http://www.summerseale.com/ Summer Seale

        Sorry, I live in Israel, and Haredim deserve to be criticized. The story is not true, and I never posted it, but I still find Haredim to be ridiculous and, frankly, insulting. And a hell of a lot of Israelis think that they’re extremist nutjobs who do nothing but leech their system dry. I sympathize with that view. Moreover, it’s clear that I’m not a Jew hater since:

        1) I support Israel and
        2) I agree with the majority of Jews and Israelis about what kind of people the Haredim truly are.

        • Quintin van Zuijlen

          I’m not entirely sure whether point 1 is valid given the support Israel gets from very much anti-Jewish fundamentalist Christians in the US.

          • Camorris

            I am an ex-Baha’i but now an atheist, and I support Israel even though they have some weird Jewish sects. I had the pleasure of spending a month there in 2010 living on the economy at a friend’s place.

            I saw and experienced enough to form the opinion that Israel is a civilized state that is worthy of existence. Yes, there are nutty sects there, but they are the minority even though highly visible. I don’t consider them any more nutty than some Christian sects.

            Israel is always under threat of attack from its Arab neighbours, and has undergone many attacks of the Boston Marathon type. It disheartens me when western liberals denigrate Israel for its defensive tactics without ever having been there to experience their plight.

            I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis need each other, and if they could ever learn to push their faiths into the background and undertake to interact merely as people, that region would become the great powerhouse of the Middle East.

            • Randay

              Did you go to the West Bank to see how Palestinians live? What about their plight? The U.S mass media always go along with Israeli claims that its are “defensive” actions. To support Israel, you have to ignore history. Israel was created by terrorists, at least two of whom became Prime Ministers:: Begin & Shamir. Both before and after the 1948 war they carried out terrorist acts: the bombing of the King David Hotel and the assassination of UN moderator Swede Count Bernadotte to name but two. That effectively also killed Bernadotte’s plan for the return of the refugees. There is even a museum in Israel for the infamous Stern Gang.

              In 1948, a group of eminent American Jews protested the visit of Begin in a letter to the NY Times. They even called him a fascist. The 1948 letter to New York Times:
              http://www.globalwebpost.com/farooqm/study_res/einstein/nyt_letter.html

      • Agrajag

        Believing that conservative religious folks believe one particular crazy thing that they turn out not to believe, and then correcting the mistake doesn’t make anyone a hater of anything, it just makes them less than omniscient.

      • Yoav

        I’ll second Summer Seale’s comment. I live in Israel as well and have followed the evolution of the Haredi (and some elements of what used to be moderate orthodox) obsession with eliminating all contact between the sexes at younger and younger ages. 30 years ago even the most extreme haredi wouldn’t think there was a problem for men and women to sit next to each other on the bus, now you have Rabbi Aviner (a well known and influential rabbi) insisting that girls as young as 3 should be wearing long sleeves, long skirts and thick socks (he actually subscribe a minimum thickness) and most people shrug it off as just another nutjob just like the one we hear every day, that’s how far the overton window have moved on the issue in orthodox Jewry.

      • L.Long

        Sorry you got it all wrong we are not jew haters we are crazy stupid haters. It don’t matter what you call yourself if your belief is crazy and or stupid we are happy to point that out to you.

      • Brian Geary

        Oh, but I’m sure you feel it’s fine to be a gentile hater.

    • r.holmgren

      If you knew, then you would have known that this was not true. The fact is you just let your hatred to run unchecked.

      • Mara

        Right. Because the haredi would never stone ambulances driving on Shabbat or burn down wig shops or throw rotten fruit at young girls for not being wrapped up in an all-enveloping gown. Yup, that kind of insanity has never happened, right? And nobody’s refusing to let women have a voice on issues that directly concern them by shutting down conferences lest a woman speak in public.

        Yup, there’s no reason I would ever think that an ultra-Orthodox rabbi would come up with a ruling that made me think he was insane. I mean, it’s not like they’re forcing women to sit in the back of the bus and walk on a different side of the street lest they breathe the same air as men and somehow tempt them with their bare fingers or something!

        Oh wait…

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I’m of Jewish background, though not haredi at all (Conservative and Reconstructionist, actually). I thought this sounded off, but I couldn’t immediately say that no rabbi would ever say something that crazy either. I’m glad Hemant looked into it further, else I would have filed it under unconfirmed but plausible rumor.

        The sad part? It is a plausible rumor. The haredi really have gone that far off the deep end. I don’t blame Mara for falling for it.

  • Kahomono

    I came out from Orthodox Judaism and I knew this was goofy when I saw it.

    There’s enough genuine insanity there, trust me, without having to make some up.

    • Jew

      Taking a swipe at our people is you job now?

      • Kahomono

        No, just my hobby. :)

        I trash all religious nut-jobbery equally. Some religions are just more productive of it than others. The “Abrahamic Big Three” are pretty solidly in the lead over all others.

        Any more insincere questions? (Before you get banned)

      • Brian Geary

        I guarantee you have no problem swiping at Christians or Muslims. Take your lumps – you know how to give them.

  • Erp

    Knowledge of Pikuach Nefesh should have been sufficient to reject since that concept means most Jewish laws must be broken (idoloatry and murder being exceptions) if necessary to save a specific life and receiving a blood donation in a medical situation is only done when the person’s life is in danger.

    • Mara

      No, blood donations are not only done when a person’s life is in danger. Sometimes they’re done as a precaution, as an Orthodox friend pointed out to me.

      • Erp

        As a precaution against a reasonable chance of losing the life (remember there are risks with third party blood donation which preclude doing it for minor reasons). My understanding is that Pikuach Nefesh takes a fairly broad interpretation of risk to life.

    • baal

      Ah the joys of being mildly dyslexic and discovering new words. My brain fixed this “Pikuach Nefesh” to “Pikachu Fetish*” on the first read through.

      I’ll go sit in the corner now.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Rule 34?

  • John Small Berries

    So, a “rabbi says stupid shit” article about what one nutjob rabbi says, which is atypical of what the majority of Jews believe, is irresponsible and shouldn’t be spread as an example of religious beliefs run amok… but multiple “Christian pastor says stupid shit” posts about what nutjob Stephen Anderson says, which is atypical of what the majority of Christians believe, are just fine and dandy as examples of religious beliefs run amok?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      The rabbi is spreading false information and the article traces it back to a source that says “That’s not what we said.” Pastor Anderson’s comments about the power of the patriarchy are far more prevalent in the Christian community that you might think… and I’d argue that different interpretations of the Bible are not the same as saying “This group said X” when they really didn’t.

      • Eli Anonymous

        As an Orthodox Jew myself (and closet atheist), I have never heard this before, even though I’m in the “ultra” orthodox camp. But I think it’s only because it’s totally impactical – as right-wing nuts as we are, when in the ER, we won’t be declining blood. If it were practical, it would very much be enacted, given that goyim (non-Jews) are of a lesser species than we are – and that I have heard and read from numerous sources.

        • Kahomono

          Eli – I am glad you have a chance to read and post here. I found it really difficult to get out but I have to tell you how much better my life is now. And not just for me.

          If you want to talk feel free to email me at kahomono (dot) wp at gmail.

        • amycas

          “given that goyim (non-Jews) are of a lesser species than we are”

          Seriously? Lesser species?

          • Eli Anonymous

            Yup, afraid so. Heard from more than one of my wacko rabbis. Some written sources… http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/judaism.htm

            • McAtheist

              You “heard from than one of MY wacko rabbis”…..biblebelievers is a christian fundie website, you have rabbis?

    • rhodent

      If a rabbi had actually said these things, then they would be held up as examples of religious beliefs run amok — and rightfully so. The difference here is not that a Jew said one thing while a Christian said another, but that a Jew is wrongfully accused of saying one thing while there is documented evidence of a Christian actually saying another.

      Furthermore, Hemant posts this article not because atheists generally have more respect for Judaism than for Christianity (an idea which ought to be self-evidently false to anyone other than a Christian with a persecution complex), but rather because atheists generally respect truth enough to want to make certain they are getting their facts straight. If you had put half as much effort into getting your facts straight before making your accusation, you might not look quite as foolish as you currently do.

  • Artor

    I can totally believe that an ultra-conservative rabbi could say something like this, but I also know that few, if any, blood banks keep that kind of demographic info with their blood. Screen for diseases & drugs, test for type, put the bag in the cooler and you’re done. Thank you; next?

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    I hate to tell him, but if he’s eaten anything made from any type of flour, he’s eaten bug. Or if he has ever eaten peanut butter or a fig.

    • Kahomono

      Hey the NY city drinking water was found a few years ago to have verrrry tiiiiiny shrimp-like critters in it. Completely harmless but guess who opened a new Bottled Water biz pretty quick? :)

    • Agrajag

      There’s tiny fractions of bugs in *everything*. There’s no way to be sure there’s no tiny bug in the cauliflower, the salad, the carrot, the apple, the flour or the walnut.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    Lev Malka sounds reasonable. But … what did the rabbi’s BOOK state about the issue. Google translate does a poor job, but they refer to a book of unknown title, not the blood bank’s policy.

    The rabbi who supposedly wrote this book is dead. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaim_Pinchas_Scheinberg)

    I noticed one issue that may have been misinterpreted and led to the whole kerfuffle: “Also rabbis forbid a man and a woman to take blood from each other. Although at the time of saving lives it is permitted, but even the condition is that it be done by a married person and not by Single.”

    Probably refers to blood bank workers, not transfusion recipients – orthodox would prefer that blood be taken by a person of the same sex, but if it’s getting blood for an emergency use married ones of the opposite sex.

    • Kahomono

      As with artists, dying is a great career move for a rabbi.

      The older a source is, the “purer” it’s supposed to be – because it’s closer back to the Revelation.

      Another logical impossibility: all that studying Torah and they fully acknowledge that they are just getting worse and worse at it.

  • Guest

    Another religion where some as$-clown tells you what to do…
    Fùck that rabbi

  • rustygh

    Hmm translation, or cover up. Whatever

  • Guy Shefer

    not to confuse anyone here with the facts, but-
    it appears that this organization WAS LYING through it’s kosher teeth. there most certaintly EXISTS a booklet written by this organization that dictates ever more obsessively (as the all Haredi Jewish cults constantly do) about the virtues and possible “sins” to beware of regarding giving and receiving blood transfusions.
    here is the link for Hebrew readers, others are welcome to try make sense of a google translation-
    a p.c. article from a religious site: http://www.inn.co.il/News/News.aspx/245549
    a less p.c. blog: http://privateinvesigations.blogspot.co.il/2013/04/blog-post_9459.html
    Now, as this evidently two-faced organization claims, GIVING blood is indeed encouraged, as it is an act of kindness. also, RECEIVING blood is usually a life and death situation, and there is enough common sense in the jewish law to forego its usual OCD dictates in these cases. what they “failed” to mention in their bait-and-switch, is that this booklet proudly claims that in OTHER than life threatening situations, some ridiculous, xenophobic, racist and mysogenist dictates apply (among others):
    -a woman receiving transfusions from a man and vice versa is *unchaste*
    -a son receiving transfusions from his father is akin to “bleeding his father” and is forbidden
    -and the topic discussed here:
    “”ישנה מידת חסידות שלא לקבל תרומה מאוכלי נבלות וטריפות שמטמטמים ומולידים טבע רע אצל מקבל הדם, ורק בשעת סכנה הדבר יכול להיעשות ללא שום חשש”.”
    translation-
    “there is virtue in refusing a transfusion from eaters of [non kosher meats] (common reference to anyone not observing orthodox jewish dictates), for these stupify (meant literally) and invoke evil nature in the receiver, and only in times of danger can this be done without regard.”

  • Gus Snarp

    Nice job tracking this down, Hemant. That’s skepticism at work!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I appreciate that!

  • busterggi

    Great, if ultra-orthodox Jews will accept goyim blood transfusions there won’t be enough for needy Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-OLeary/1313741338 Mark O’Leary

    Told ya. I knew this was BS.

  • YaronD

    Notice that the only thing that was wrong due to translation is the gender issue (a person of the opposite sex shouldn’t draw the blood, unless necessary and even then only if they’re married). The other claims, about not receiving blood from non-orthodox or non-Jews, is still exactly as is stated in Hebrew, as well as the claim that this non-orthodox blood is tainted and will make you stupid.

    So overall this isn’t much of an improvement, and the correction here, while valid, isn’t that significant. They picked on the one thing that was not understood correctly when translating (though the original Hebrew is still phrased a bit vaguely there and it’s possible to reach the same interpretation even in the original article) and ignored all the other glaring problems in their response.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jerome-McCollom/100000327150215 Jerome McCollom

    The thing about religion is, the beliefs are so goofy and dumb that it is hard to know when something is too crazy not to be true.


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