By Tamar Weinberg | August 31, 2017
Adam Krief was a rockstar in his own right. The Los Angeles-based father of three, who succumbed to a rare form of cancer at the age of 32, spearheaded a worldwide movement within the Jewish, but particularly Sephardic Jewish, community to encourage others with similar heritage to get swabbed to find out their eligibility as a bone marrow match. After Krief’s passing in March, almost a year after his diagnosis, the #Hope4Adam movement lives on with 44 people having been matched in cities such as New York, Tel Aviv, Paris and Los Angeles.
New Rochelle resident Gerald Cohen, a Moroccan Jew himself, took particularly hard Krief’s death. Krief’s perseverance and dedication had paid off—he found a match and had a bone marrow transplant, but it was too late; shortly thereafter, Krief passed. Cohen, a Los Angeles transplant now living in Westchester, grew up with Krief. His parents and Krief’s parents were close friends—”He was almost like a cousin,” Cohen said. “We would spend Shabbat together. Our parents would go on vacation together. He was a sweet kid, a good guy, a real gem of a person, and never had a bad thing to say about others.”
Krief left behind three children, Lev (age 4), Joel (age 3) and Luca (age 1). With limited funds available, Cohen has elected to help raise money to sustain the family. Cohen partnered with the nonprofit Chai4Ever, which gives tax-deductible donations with no minimums. “Every donation will help [his] family, no matter the amount,” a letter addressed to the community said.
“The inspiring thing about [Krief],” Cohen says, “was that in the last month of his life, he was so dedicated to [connecting donors with matches], and he inspired lots of people to do so in his name.” To this day, the Hope 4 Adam Facebook page is encouraging more and more people to get swabbed to help others who are in similar predicaments. To Cohen, it was especially motivating within the Sephardic community, which wasn’t previously as connected to the cause. “He inspired a community to get involved,” Cohen said. “The issue is all on our radar. Through his memory they are now doing this type of chesed that they hadn’t done before.” As a Moroccan Jew, Kreif was “the impetus” to get more Sephardic participation in these bone marrow drives.
With Cohen psyched up from Krief’s actions to motivate a community, he wanted to play his own part. Last year, Cohen “trained” for the marathon with Robert Zellner, another New Rochelle resident. “I always said to myself I would never do a marathon,” Cohen said, “but I trained during short distance runs [with Zellner] during the week.” For the 2016 marathon, Zellner raised money for OneFamily, supporting victims of terrorism in Israel, and Cohen was at the sidelines to cheer him on that day in November. In fact, Cohen got so excited during the race that he jumped in to run besides Zellner—for five miles. “I was just so mesmerized by the energy and how great it was, and I said ‘I think I want to do this.’” On a whim, he entered the 2017 marathon lottery and got a spot. Just a few weeks later, Krief passed. “I felt so saddened by his passing and my family and friends were so moved by the whole campaign to get people swabbed,” but they didn’t want to stop there. Raising three children under five is a daunting task with two incomes, let alone one. Cohen decided that this would be his mission: to support the cause through tax-deductible donations. With the help of Robert Friedman, another New Rochelle resident, Cohen was connected with Chai4Ever, who operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, allowing anyone and everyone to donate with the tax benefit.
At press time, Cohen had raised nearly $9,000 of his goal of $100,000. Donations can be made at www.raise4ever.org/run4adam. His young children, too, decided to raise for Krief by running a local race during Thanksgiving. Their page at www.raise4ever.org/cohens says, “When we heard that our Daddy was running for Adam, we wanted to do it too. This Thanksgiving we are running in New Rochelle’s Turkey Trot race. We are going to train hard for it (and win!) in Adam’s honor. Please support us by contributing to Adam and his family. Thank you!”