The Transplant Games of America is a biennial event that brings together transplant recipients, living donors, donor families, individuals on the waiting list, caregivers, transplant professionals, supporters, and spectators.

Produced by the Transplant Life Foundation, the Transplant Games “honor the lasting legacy of donors who gave the ultimate gift of life, highlight the need for and importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation, celebrate the success of transplantation, and increase the national and state registry numbers.” This year’s Transplant Games of America took place in San Diego, California July 29 to August 3.

Louis Levin of Wilton Manors, a 2018 heart transplant patient, took part in the recent Transplant Games of America. “The transplant games are for anyone who has received a lifesaving organ to participate in,” Levin says. “It is open to those in the USA and abroad. Many donor families participate in some of the activities and tell their stories. Thousands of people attend and participate in sports, poker, cornhole and others. I was blessed to win two silver medals in men’s doubles bowling and mixed doubles bowling. I also received an honorary medal in the 2k.” Levin also competed in poker, though there he did not win a medal. Although the Games were not without its troubles – a participant in the swimming competition suffered a heart attack, canceling that event – they were successful. A special event honored people who lived 25 or more years with transplanted organs.

“The Transplant Games gave me an opportunity to meet with other people that are in the same situation as me in regard to transplant and hear the stories of their journeys. But for me the most moving by far are the donor families; families who lost their loved ones and who made the decision to donate their loved one's organs.” Levin hopes to continue his participation in the Games and plans to attend the World Transplant Games, to be held in Perth, Australia, April 15 to 21, 2023.

A New Day for Congregation Etz Chaim

When Rabbi Noah Kitty stepped down as Spiritual Leader of Congregation Etz Chaim (May 31) many observers thought that the 48-year-old Synagogue would not survive. Louis Levin, CEC’s newly elected president, and other Board members disagreed. “We had too much to offer to the community and we are not done,” Levin says. “We have enough in the funds to last at least another year and we have to give it a try.” Turnout for Friday Night Services has been almost as good as they were during Rabbi Kitty’s last year and Synagogue leaders look forward to a productive High Holy Days season.

In this new spirit, the Board of Congregation Etz Chaim hired a new spiritual leader. Marcia Weinstein describes herself as “a Cantorial Soloist, Shaliach Tzibur (service leader), Jewish Educator, and song leader who has spent over a decade leading Shabbat, Festival and High Holiday services while incorporating Jewish music every step of the way.” Weinstein’s belief in “audacious hospitality” and “radical welcoming” is evident in her engaging services, and her desire to create a Kehillah Kedoshah (holy community). Weinstein will lead her new Congregation in the upcoming High Holy Days.

Congregation Etz Chaim holds Friday Night Services at 8 p.m. at the Pride Center Auditorium, 2038 N. Dixie Hwy, in Wilton Manors.

Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.