Assemblyman Ari Brown has openly expressed regret in the past for not serving his country. Despite his new gig in Albany, Brown has acknowledged that that service doesn’t compare to the sacrifices made by military veterans who risk their lives for the country.
Presented with an opportunity to help someone in need, Brown jumped at it.
A blood donor for over 30 years, Brown saw the opportunity to do more by donating one of his kidneys. After years of waiting for the results of a range of medical tests required by the National Kidney Foundation, he was approved, and was matched with a patient in need of a kidney.
“Of course — when can we do it?” he recalled saying when he was told of his approval. The state legislator, who represents East Rockaway, the Five Towns, Island Park and Oceanside, didn’t ask who the likely recipient was. His first thought, he said, was that someone was suffering and needed his help.
Little did he know that, in a twist of profound irony, he would most likely be donating his organ to not only a veteran, but a recipient of a Purple Heart — an honor awarded by the president to a member of the armed forces who is wounded in action. Brown will have the chance to help someone who fought for his and others’ freedom.
Donor and recipient do not yet know each other’s names.
Brown’s regret for not having served in the military dates back to the early 1990s, when he was contemplating enlisting to serve in the Gulf War. Then 23, he ultimately decided against it, because he had a young daughter and another child on the way.
“Even though I’m an honoree major in the U.S. Air Force Civil Air Patrol, it’s not the same thing,” Brown said. “These guys who served in war, that’s a whole different level of honor and patriotism.”
Syd Mandelbaum, commander of Lawrence-Cedarhurst American Legion Post 339, has known Brown for over 20 years, and describes him as a selfless guy. When Mandelbaum learned of Brown’s act of kindness, he said it was a sign of bravery.
“He is putting himself in harm’s way to help someone that he knows is at risk,” Mandelbaum said. “It is equal to anything that any military person would do. To be able to almost protect the future life of someone, I am really humbled that he’s doing this.”
Cedarhurst Mayor Benjamin Weinstock appointed Brown deputy mayor in 2019. Brown, a buisnessman, had served on the village’s zoning board from 1998 to 2001 and as a trustee from 2001 to 2019.
“It’s courageous and very important,” Weinstock said of Brown’s organ donation. “It is the kind of person he is, no question about it, but it goes even above and beyond the kind of person I know him to be.”
Brown is expected to undergo the transplant next month. He credits his resolve to the guidance of the Torah, which commands one to save someone who is in danger.
Whether his recipient were a veteran or not, he said, he would have done it regardless. “It’s the least I can do for a guy like this,” Brown said. “If the person didn’t work and were homeless, I would still do it. Personally, to save someone’s life, this is what a good Jew and a good Republican does. We give.”