Baruch Tegegne, the man credited with rescuing hundreds if not thousands of his fellow Ethiopian Jews from famine and death, is now in a fight for his own life.
In the second group of Ethiopian Jews brought to Israel in the 1950's by Israel's second president Yitzhak Ben-Tzvi and educated in AMIT religious schools, Baruch met a Canadian Jewish woman in Israel. They married and moved to Montreal 1979.
His dramatic escape by foot from Ethiopia in 1974 to get to Israel and his activism for rescue of Ethiopian Jews was featured in the 1983 documentary "Falasha: Exile of the Black Jews."
Among those supportive of Baruch's rescue efforts was Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, considered by many to be the leading Orthodox rabbinic scholar of the last half of the 20th century.
Now 61, Baruch has advanced kidney disease caused by diabetes. He undergoes dialysis four times a week at the Jewish General Hospital. His health is rapidly deteriorating.
But his fight is against more than advanced kidney disease. It is against the state-controlled Canadian health system.
A group of his friends led by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici searched for a person willing to donate a kidney to a complete stranger.
They found one, Shree Dhar, through a website that connects live persons willing to donate an organ - without compensation - to strangers.
But Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital refuses to do the transplant for what it claims are "ethical" reasons.
Dr. Douglas Keith, head of the hospital's living donor transplant program, says the hospital could not be sure there is no "quid pro quo" agreement between Tegegne and Dhar. He also says the donation looks suspicious because the donor is from the Third World and contact was made on the Internet.
Dhar has repeatedly stated that his motives are pure, and that he is not looking for money or to immigrate to Canada.
He says he is motivated by religious conviction and is moved by Tegegne's story. Dhar also wants to honor his grandfather, an Indian army general who died of kidney disease.
"I believe G-d will be with me," he said.
Canada has no law prohibiting altruistic donations from unrelated persons.
Calls to American transplant centers confirmed that altruistic donations of this type are regularly accepted throughout the United States.
A leading opponent of altruistic transplants is leading Canadian bio-ethicist and professor of philosophy Dr. Arthur Shafer. Shafer's take on the Terri Schiavo case is telling - he was quoted as saying that Schiavo's brain stem had "turned to mush" and that Schiavo - who was starved to death by court order two months ago - was a "vegetable."
In Tegene's case, Canada's Doctor of Death is no less clear. While smirking on Canadian television Dr. Schafer asserted that if Tegegne's potential donor was "truly altruistic," he would donate his kidney to someone closer to home. Following that convoluted logic, no altruistic live-donor organ donation could ever take place.
Jacobovici accuses Royal Victoria Hospital of "arrogance, paranoia and racism" because, [like Dr. Schafer,] "it assumes that anyone donating kidney, especially if they are from the Third World, are doing it for the money and not for noble reasons.
"They're treating live donors as guilty until proven innocent and thousands of Canadians are left to die as a result."
Each year, 200 Canadians die waiting for transplants.
The Canadian healthcare system is often held up as a model for a proposed national healthcare plan in the United States like the one then-First Lady Hillary Clinton proposed in 1994.
Few Americans realize the corrosive effect the Canadian system has on the quality of healthcare provided - or not - to Canada's citizens. Inordinately long wait-times and rationing of services are the norm. Canadians wait months for coronary bypass surgery. Some die waiting. A needed MRI can require a six-month wait. And many cutting-edge procedures, drugs and treatments are simply not prescribed because they are not included in the basket of benefits Canadian's receive.
And under federal law, private clinics are not legally allowed to provide services covered by the Canada Health Act, so there is no competition - and nowhere else to turn for help.
Canada is also alleged to hold down drug prices by extorting American pharmaceutical companies: Sell Canada drugs below wholesale cost (and sometimes below actual cost) or Canada will buy so-called grey market knock-offs from China.
But in Baruch Tegegne's case, the Canadian system becomes even more bizarre.
A live donor, altruistic transplant with a donor found over the Internet has been done at Toronto General Hospital.
But Tegegne cannot simply fly to Toronto to save his life. Canadian national healthcare is not portable. Toronto is in the provence of Ontario. Montreal is in Quebec. Except for emergency, non-elective care, Toronto will not pay for a Montreal citizen's healthcare.
Even though Tegegne needs the transplant to save his life, the transplant is not considered emergency care, so the man who risked his life to save hundreds from certain death now waits quietly for his own.
Michael Bergman, a noted Montreal lawyer is providing pro bono representation for Tegegne.
But Tegegne's health makes a protracted legal battle impossible. He simply doesn't have the time.
So Jacobovici and friends have begun raising $200,000 to pay for a transplant outside of Canada. They launched a website, www.TransplantNow.org, and got to work.
An Israeli hospital agreed has agreed to do the transplant. It also cut $70,000 from its fee.
The Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel - the poorest of Israel's poor - raised $20,000 from its own members.
And donations have come in from those who have found Baruch's story on the Internet.
Still, $100,000 is still needed.
"We're at the crunch point now," Jacobovici notes. "We've got about a month to get this done."
Tegegne's story clearly demonstrates the danger of a state-controlled healthcare system. But it also provides the opportunity to send a message and demonstrate that protecting human life is the most important moral value, one that trumps socialized medicine and doctors of death every time.
Direct, secure online donations can be made through the Sha'arei Dayah Foundation: https://www.charitybox.com/sdf or www.BoutiqueTzedaka.org and are tax deductible in the United States. All funds received will go directly to Tegegne's transplant.
Checks should be mailed to:
The Sha'arei Dayah Foundation
2136 Ford Parkway #181
Saint Paul, MN 55116
(Please put "kidney" in the memo line of your check.)