Conservative Judaism

Organ & Tissue Donation

All denominations of Judaism agree that the supreme Jewish value, and greatest mitzvah, is saving a life. Pikuach Nefesh (saving a life) is such a sacred principle that it takes precedence over almost every other religious act or consideration. Because a single organ donor can save up to eight lives, and one tissue donor can save or enhance the lives of up to 50 people, Judaism views organ and tissue donation as a sacred act of Pikuach Nefesh which overrides all other religious concerns, such as body integrity and expedient burial.

Nearly 20 years ago, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of Conservative Judaism’s Rabbinical Assembly ruled that post-mortem donation of organs is permissible as a “new means to fulfill an ancient, eternal religious duty, a mitzvah of the highest order,” namely saving a life and improving the health of others.

"It is not merely permissible for a Jew to bequeath organs for transplantation following death, it is a mitzvah to do so, in order to save one life, or several lives." - Rabbi David Golinkin, Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem

Q. Doesn’t Judaism require us to be buried with our bodies intact?

A. The Jewish value of Kevod Meit (honoring the deceased) generally requires the body to be buried intact. However, because organ and tissue donation is a dignified medical procedure that saves multiple lives, Rabbi Elliot Dorff writes that "saving a person's life is so sacred a value in Judaism that if a person's organ can be used to save someone else's life, it is actually an honor to the deceased."

Q. Does organ or tissue donation interfere with Jewish funeral or burial rites?

A. No. An organ donor can be buried in a Jewish cemetery with any/all traditional funeral and burial rituals, including Tahara (ritual washing).

Q. Will doctors try to save my life even if they see that I am an organ donor?

A. Absolutely. Organ donation is only given consideration after ALL attempts to save the life of a patient have failed, and only after death has been declared by a physician who is not affiliated with the process of donation.

Q. What parts of the body can be donated?

A. In addition to saving lives through the donation of multiple organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas & intestines), a donor can save or enhance many additional lives with the gift of corneas, bone, skin grafts (for burn victims), heart valves, and blood vessels (from the leg) can be transplanted.

Q. Is there any cost to my family for donating my organs, tissues or eyes?

A. No. LiveOnNY covers all additional costs associated with donation.

The Facts

  • Nearly 110,000 people across the country are waiting for life-saving transplants
  • A New Yorker dies every 18 hrs. waiting for a life-saving organ to be donated
  • One organ donor can save up to eight lives
  • Organ recipients are determined by computer algorithm; the process is not influenced by gender, ethnicity or religion
  • A donor family may direct their gift directly to a family member or friend on the waiting list for an organ
  • Anyone can be a potential donor, regardless of age, race or medical history


Personal Reflections from a Jewish Organ Donor Family

Personal Reflections from a Jewish Heart Recipient

The Mitzvah of Organ Donation by Rabbi Joseph Prousser

Organ Donation & Donor Cards Committee on Jewish Law & Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly

The Iniquity of Inequity – Why We Can’t Receive without Giving in Return