Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The ever-burgeoning Teaneck and surrounding Orthodox communities are not only growing in numbers. Among their residents are individuals who have personally created a whole host of chesed organizations that care for the physical as well as mental and social well-being of the community. These organizations, from clothing gemachs to therapeutic counseling services, have even expanded way beyond the borders of Bergen County into national and even international organizations. One such organization is NechamaComfort, founded 35 years ago by Reva and Danny Judas after the loss of their first child, Pesach.

When confronted with their loss there was no source of direction or comfort for the Judases. Reva Judas was determined to create a supportive net for families suffering from early miscarriage through the loss of infants up to age 1. The mission is “to help whenever and wherever we are needed—the immediate family, extended family and friends,” she said. “We work with medical staff, hospital staff, clergy and funeral homes to get families the help they need. We educate professionals and communities on how to be supportive. Whether the loss was recent or many years ago, we are here.”

Founder and Director of NechamaComfort, Judas earned a BS in human and child development to which she added chaplaincy certification from Hackensack Medical Center and pregnancy infant loss facilitator certification from the Resolve Through Sharing.Program.

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month takes place annually in October as designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. In marking this anniversary, Judas is sharing the great strides and expansion of services that NechamaComfort has achieved during the last few years, even during the trying days of COVID.

The offices of NechamaComfort relocated to 1299 Dickerson Road in Teaneck. With a new website and a hotline number of 1-833-Nechama available from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, the organization is now represented on social media including Instagram and Facebook. Its continuing training and community awareness program now includes outreach to rabbinical students from Yeshiva University, yoatzot, and rebbetzins and mikvah attendants from the OU Women’s Initiative. The training will soon include the rabbinical students at the Jewish Theological Seminary. NechamaComfort partners with similar organizations across the country, including YeshTikvah and Hasidah in California and Candles of Hope in Israel. An educational resilience program for high school seniors has been presented at SKA and Bruriah High School, and the program is looking forward to future high school presentations.

Working alongside Judas is a team of case managers who were trained through “Resolve Through Sharing,” a training program through Gunther Lutheran Hospital in Wisconsin. Currently,the case managers work with clients on an individual basis in person, phone or Zoom. Support groups meet twice a month on Tuesday afternoons from 1-2:30 p.m. and Tuesday evenings from 8-10 p.m. The afternoon sessions accommodate attendees from Israel, Europe and the West Coast. Recently, a men’s group was initiated led once a month by a psycho-trauma therapist who focuses on the specific grieving of fathers.

The key component in the services of NechamaComfort is the age of the child that is lost being less than 1. For many years these losses were handled impersonally and did not take into account the raw pain of the families. More recently, recognition of the need for proper closure in these instances has become evident and practices have been implemented to help accomplish this goal.

The directors of funeral homes have been cooperative in assisting with appropriate funeral services. Judas extends a special “shout out” of gratitude to Marty Kasdan of the local Gutterman and Musicant Funeral Home and the Beth El -Cedar Park Cemetery for offering these families a dignified burial for their baby, taking care of all the costs entailed. Most cemeteries have been cooperative in assigning areas for infants under 1; recently small coffins have been provided with Jewish stars and marked with the given name of the deceased, which provides a personal and comforting place for the families to visit. In Israel as well, cemeteries are providing special areas for these infant losses.

During the month of October, NechamaComfort will be focusing on three important messages—

Remembrance, Awareness and Fundraising. The purpose is to provide a meaningful experience for families to remember
their children who only lived in their hopes and dreams. As National Infant Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day coincides with Sukkot, some ideas may include candle-lighting ceremonies such as the one being planned for Motzei Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot in Fair Lawn or a simultaneous virtual candle-lighting ceremony. Other ideas include creating special sukkah decorations. For more ideas and details about events, check NechamaComfort’s website.

As NechamaComfort treats the entire spectrum of the Jewish community without charge, its services are in high demand. The costs of providing these services are not covered by grants alone and rely a great deal on individual donations. To learn more about NechamaComfort and to donate to its myriad activities, visit www.nechamacomfort.org or email [email protected]

By Pearl Markovitz


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