Maimonides School in Brookline recently held commencement exercises for the Class of 2011. The week leading up to graduation was chock full of activities — a senior retreat at a camp in Pennsylvania, sports banquet, rehearsal and Senior Recognition Night. Senior Night, which follows a graduation rehearsal, serves many purposes. Students receive their yearbooks and PTA gifts, special awards and prizes are given. And, it gives parents just one more opportunity to kvell at their sons and daughters.

Senior Night also includes the opportunity for graduating students (and their parents) to do the penultimate act of chesed — to save a life, pekuah nefesh. For the past few years, Gift of Life, a leading public bone marrow and blood stem cell registry, has offered cheek swabbings to graduates and their families so that they might be registrered as potential donors.  Gift of Life  has facilitated life-saving transplants for hundreds of children and adults. We know of at least three Maimonides School graduates who are  among those donors, and several others have been identified as prospective matches. Yitzi Zisblatt ’05, brother of 2011 Maimo grad Moshe Zisblatt, spoke at Senior Night about his experience as a donor while a student at YU.

Maimonides School first connected with Gift of Life in the summer of 2003, when 613 potential donors were screened in response to the need of Miss Sharon Steiff, a beloved and respected English teacher who was suffering from leukemia. Although Miss Steiff tragically passed away a few months later, more than one life was saved as a result of the event. Starting in 2006, Gift of Life screenings were added to the excitement of Senior Week activities at Maimonides. Prior to Senior Night, students were introduced to the concept of bone marrow and stem cell donation through presentations which included medical and religious considerations.

Two years ago the Osband Family endowed the annual screenings, in memory of Michael E. Osband, a Brookline resident and father of four Maimonides graduates.

Thanks to the generousity of the Osband Family, we’re proud to report that Gift of Life tested 28 prospective donors at Maimonides. And, 25 under-age seniors filled out forms to say they would like to get tested when they turn 18.