July 20, 2024
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NechamaComfort Expands Its Services

Reva Judas and her team know the meaning of nechama. They have taken their sadness and feelings of emptiness following their personal losses and elevated them to a place where they and the individuals and families they support can remember, find comfort and achieve renewal. NechamaComfort, founded in 2008 as a non-denominational nonprofit organization, is comprised of a team of four: founder Judas of Teaneck, Ellen Krischer of�

Teaneck, who has worked alongside Judas since the beginning of the organization; Aimee Baran, MD, a pediatrician from Riverdale; and Esther Levie, an RN from Teaneck. All four women experienced losses of infants or underwent miscarriages or stillbirths. The team offers counseling, support groups, community awareness programs and resources for clergy and medical professionals. Through a 24/7 hotline the women receive calls from as far away as Hong Kong and South Africa from couples and families who are facing the tragic loss of a tiny individual and are seeking understanding and comfort in their distress. A NechamaComfort flyer has even been sighted in the mikvah in China.

NechamaComfort offers its services through the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey, located on Teaneck Road, which also assists the organization with printing materials and provides space for therapy groups within their facility. JFCS’s therapists are also on hand to assist the team when needed. The fundraising and publicity for the organization as well as the costs of the support groups, community and outreach presentations, and the hotline are all the responsibility of NechamaComfort. The further their services are in demand, the higher the costs of running the organization. To date, most of the organization’s resources have come from private donations and community support. The hope is that the upcoming second annual dinner, to be held on Monday, July 23, will raise awareness of the unique work of the organization and create a large core of supporters.

Servicing all religious and unaffiliated groups, NechamaComfort sees its mission as universal. However, as Orthodox Jewish women, the team members have dealt with issues specific to the Orthodox Jewish community. Sam Levi, longtime head of the chevra kadisha of Congregation Beth Abraham in Teaneck, has seen significant changes in the community’s dealing with early loss.

“In earlier years, the chevra would simply take the niftar and bury it in a remote part of the cemetery not revealed to the family. Over the years, when, through technological advances, attachments are formed to the unborn through sonograms, determination of gender and even some physical distinctions, the sense of loss is even greater. In response, the chevra now discusses choices with the bereaved, letting them decide whether they want to name the infant, hold a formal ceremony, know the site of burial and sit shiva for the loss. We are talking about the loss of infants before 30 days. After 30 days, all the halachot relating to death and burial apply,” noted Levi.

Response by the community to the organization has been positive and resourceful. At last year’s dinner, nearly every community rabbi was present. Rabbi Yosef Adler of Congregation Rinat Yisrael has composed a version of the kel maleh prayer that is appropriate for child loss. Dr. Sema Bank, an OB-GYN from Teaneck who works closely with NechamaComfort, has suggested that mothers who wear name bracelets should include the name of the deceased sibling as a confirmation of being a part of the family.

The upcoming dinner, which will be attended by men as well as women, will include a memorial segment when families who have experienced loss will engage in an activity of memorialization through placing stones, releasing bubbles or reading poetry.

Said Judas, “Our purpose with the dinner is to honor our losses, support our families and raise the needed funds to expand our team, educate and train them to respond 24/7 via our hotline, offer more health and healing missions such as the one in which we partner with mothers in Nahariya, Israel, and ultimately have our very own center from which to offer our unique services. To date we have serviced over 500 families, and with the help of the community we hope to assist all of those who turn to us in the future. We ask the community to help us achieve this dream.”

To join NechamaComfort at its second annual dinner, to be held on Monday, July 23, at 7 p.m. at Congregation Keter Israel, 600 Roemer Avenue, Teaneck, go to www.nechamacomfort.com, email Reva Judas at [email protected] or call�201-724-4093.

By Pearl Markovitz

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