Rabbi sold kidneys for $160,000 In U.S.

Armen Hareyan's picture

Until recently in New York and New Jersey areas people with severe kidney health such as kidney stones and kidney cancer that required a change of the organ did not have to wait for a donor, they could go to a Rabbi in Brooklyn. Izhak Levy Rosenbaum of Brooklyn called himself a 'matchmaker,' but his business had nothing to do with any romance. Instead, authorities say, he organized the sale of kidneys in the black market, buying organs from vulnerable people from Israel and India for $10,000 and then selling them to desperate patients in the U.S. for up to $ 160,000.

According to United Network of Organ Sharing nearly 80,000 Americans were waiting for kidney donors to bet a transplants as of last week. In fact, the organization said in a statement that "this is highly troubling to the entire transplant community. We hope that all facts are fully and swiftly uncovered, in the interest of maintaining public trust in the transplant system."

The alleged business of brokering a kidney transplant, which lasted 10 years and was exposed this week by an FBI undercover operation, has shocked the transplants industry nationwide. If true, would be the first documented case of organ trafficking in the U.S., experts said on Friday transplants.

We had heard of selling organs in other countries, but we had never heard they involving United States.


Rosenbaum was arrested on Thursday, 10 days after meeting in the basement of his home with a government informant and an FBI agent who pretended to be the secretary of the informant. The agent claimed to be seeking a kidney to a sick man who was on dialysis and was in a transplant at a hospital in Philadelphia.

Donors were brought from Israel to America, where they were operated to remove the kidneys, the authorities said. Prosecutors did not identify which hospitals in the U.S. had received from donors and their kidneys.

The medical and transplant community is shocked. "Allegations of an organization of organ trafficking in the United States is terrible," said John Davis, president of the National Kidney Foundation. Orna Cohen, spokesman for the Israel Medical Association, said his organization had no reports that Israel had sold organs. "If true, it would be shocking," he said.

Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israel National Police, said that the police in his country had not participated in the investigation and did not comment further.

According to the federal law, enacted in 1984, it is illegal for anyone to knowingly buy or sell organs for transplants. The practice is also illegal in the rest of the world. However, the demand for kidneys far exceeds the supply in the U.S. and 4.500 people die every year waiting for a kidney, according to United Network for Organ Sharing. As a result, there is an active black market for kidney donors throughout the world.

By Armen Hareyan
Materials from AP writer David Porter and NY Daily News, National Kidney Association and United Network for Organ Sharing are used in this report.