Adam Krief: His Life and Legacy

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Adam Krief: His Life and Legacy

Yehudis Litvak

When the news of Adam Krief’s passing spread on Tuesday, March 14th, the Jewish community of Los Angeles and beyond was thrust into collective mourning. Adam’s funeral the next day was attended by close to 2000 people, most of whom did not know him personally. “The funeral looked like it was a leader of a country,” says Betty Braun, a close family friend. “It was devastating, but [Adam] changed the world. Most people want to change the world in their lifetime. He accomplished it at the age of 32.”

Prior to his illness, Adam was an unassuming businessman and family man. He grew up in Los Angeles, where he attended public school. After high school, Adam spent a year in Israel at Bar Ilan University and then majored in business management at USC. After graduation, Adam began working at his family’s watch business. At age 24, he married Lia Mantel, also from Los Angeles. They had three children, who are currently 4, 2, and 1 years old.

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Adam’s friends remember him as “an all-around wonderful guy.” He was kind-hearted and caring, a devoted husband and father. He kept up close relationships with his family and friends, including his parents, siblings, and cousins. “He was always there for his friends, always talked things through,” says a close friend. “Anyone who knew him loved him. We looked up to Adam and Lia. They were a close couple.”

Betty adds, “He was always smiling and friendly. He never had anything negative to say to anyone.”

While Adam had always been admired by his close circle of friends, it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with primary myelofibrosis, a deadly blood cancer, that Adam’s name became known in the wider world. The doctors told Adam that his only hope for defeating his disease was a bone marrow transplant from a donor whose bone marrow matched Adam’s. Thus began a worldwide effort to locate a match and save Adam’s life.

Adam’s family and friends began bone marrow drives, where anyone could be tested with a swab of their cheek. The potential donors were entered into the bone marrow registry, so that their information would be available to anyone in need of a match. The campaign, named Hope 4 Adam, circulated over Facebook.

The Jewish community’s response was overwhelming. As soon as the testing stations were set up, they were flooded by eager volunteers hoping that their bone marrow might prove to be life-saving. The Gift of Life donor program, which provides the testing kits and maintains the registry, had to hire additional employees to process the new potential donors. “They never had such a response,” says Jeremie Braun, a close family friend who was very involved in the campaign.

The campaign spread from Los Angeles to other cities and countries, including Israel. “Altogether, 60,000 people joined the global bone marrow registry in four months as a result of Hope 4 Adam,” says Jeremie. To date, thirteen other people have found their bone marrow matches thanks to the donors registered through the campaign. Approximately 1 in each 400 people registered becomes a donor, so the total amount of matches expected to result from the campaign is 150.

Throughout the campaign, Adam insisted that he wasn’t only looking for his own match. He wanted to make sure that other people would also be helped. Thus, he refused to look for a match in countries that do not maintain a bone marrow registry, including Morocco, where his family was from and where he was most likely to find a match.

When Adam’s match was finally found last December, the entire community was ecstatic. But the fight was not yet over. Adam needed numerous blood transfusions, including platelets. The community stepped up to the plate. The staff of the City of Hope hospital, where Adam was hospitalized, “were amazed at how many people came to donate blood and platelets,” says Jeremie. “It is a 2.5 hour process to donate platelets. People took half a day to give [Adam] life.”

Unfortunately, Adam’s body rejected the bone marrow transplant. While doctors fought valiantly to save Adam’s life, the Jewish community stormed the Heavens on his behalf. Tehillim were recited around the clock. Learning sessions organized in the merit of Adam’s recovery were exceptionally well attended. People took on additional mitzvos they had not observed previously. Some began to observe Shabbos for the first time in their lives. In the last days of Adam’s life, 26,000 people around the world participated in the group Tehillim. Adam hung on to life for three days longer than the doctors had predicted.

Ultimately, the answer we received was not the one we’d hoped and prayed for. But in his short 32 years in this world, Adam managed to inspire and unite the Jewish community all over the world like never before. Jeremie, who visited Adam in the hospital often, says, “He never complained for a second about his situation. He never asked, ‘Why me?’ He was never angry at Hashem. He was selfless and genuinely cared about other people. He had the most positive attitude I had ever seen. He inspired me.”

Even those people who never met Adam were inspired by his struggle. Laura Abergel did not know Adam personally. She responded to a request for volunteers at one of the local bone marrow testing drives. “I saw how many people were coming to the drive, from far away,” Laura says. “I was so touched and moved that it became a mission [for me].”

Laura took a prominent leading role in Hope 4 Adam, spending many hours late at night testing potential donors. The experience changed her life. “It started out as a physical journey,” she says. “First volunteering, then blood and platelet donations. Simultaneously, it became a spiritual journey, with saying Tehillim, learning, with people trying to better themselves in [Adam’s] merit. It showed a different side of the Jewish people, and of everyone. [Adam] became part of everyone’s family. We all became one family.” Betty adds, “Usually, when somebody is sick, all you can do is pray. Here, we could do something. So many people wanted to help! It showed that people are good.”

Betty explains that Adam and his wife Lia always made people feel good about helping them. “[They] let everyone into their world,” she says. “Lia always thanks everyone who helped them. But they were helping us. They showed us how to live gracefully at a time like that.”

“We all did everything physically and humanly possible,” says Laura. “Now I finally understand why [Adam succumbed to his illness]. He must have been such a special person to ignite such love and unity in everybody. G-d wanted His angel back.”

When Jeremie came to say good bye to Adam shortly before his passing, he thanked Adam for “inspiring us to do mitzvot.” He made a commitment to Adam to continue the work he’d began. “Such level of achdut was never seen before,” says Jeremie. “We need to continue.”

Adam’s friends and family, both those who knew him and those who didn’t, are continuing to make a difference in the world in Adam’s memory. This Sunday, March 26th, the family and friends are conducting a blood drive at the Baba Sale Congregation, which Adam’s family attends. “We will save more people,” Jeremie says. Betty adds that Lia is asking anyone who would like to honor Adam to pray for people who are sick, to donate blood, and to help others find a bone marrow match.

Jeremie maintains a WhatsApp group, called Adam’s Army, where hundreds of people are planning other projects to continue Adam’s legacy. For more information, Jeremie can be contacted at jeremiebraun55@gmail.com or 310-614-9413.