Thirty years ago, Pesach Judas, the firstborn son of Reva and Danny Judas of Teaneck, died. He was just 12 hours old.
“Everyone deals with infant death or pregnancy loss differently, and I knew that this was something that I wanted to help others with,” Ms. Judas said. In 2008, she founded NechamaComfort, a support organization for people who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of an infant. (Nechama means comfort.)
“Our main vision is to make sure that no one feels alone during this unique trauma,” Ms. Judas said. “We hope to help the family navigate through their grief, and then to find a place for it in their lives.”
When it began, the group, which is open to the entire community and whose members range from atheists to the ultra-Orthodox, met at Englewood Hospital; a year later, it moved to Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck. For the last two and a half years, it has been hosted by the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey. It meets the second Tuesday every month.
On July 1, NechamaComfort became part of Jewish Family and Children’s Services. This means that donations can be specifically earmarked for the organization. “Up until now, I had been working in other capacities and NechamaComfort was my full-time hobby,” Ms. Judas said. “Now, I am making it my full-time career.” She has many goals for the organization, which include establishing both a hotline and support groups all over the country and in Israel. She already has established a women-only group that meets at the Riverdale Jewish Center in Riverdale, N.Y. on the third Monday of every month.
Now that Ms. Judas has partnered with JFCS, her organization will be able to reach more people, and the extra funding the arrangement provides will help her fulfill those goals. “We are looking to expand our services in order to provide the best possible care to our clients,” she said. “The calls to NechamaComfort are on the rise, and these calls are not just from Bergen County, but from all around the world.” She also “wants to raise awareness and education to clergy and medical professionals,” something she already has been doing on her own through her training in the area of infant and pregnancy loss.
On Tuesday evening, July 25, NechamaComfort will offer “An Evening of Remembrance, Comfort and Renewal” at the Teaneck Jewish Center. The benefit, the first such fundraiser for the organization, will support the families who have experienced the profound loss of a fetus or newborn.
“The event is taking place during the Nine Days,” the period from the first of the month of Av until the fast day, Tisha b’Av, on the ninth day of that month. “It is the time when we remember destruction, but more importantly how we came out of the destruction to a time and place of hope and renewal,” Ms. Judas said.
Perhaps coincidentally, the Shabbat after Tisha b’Av is called Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of comfort. It is the time of year to go through tragedy to hope.
“Our event is doing the same,” she said. “We hope to take the stigma away for people who experience infant and or pregnancy loss. Our philosophy is to show people how to go through this trauma and put it into a place in their lives. Many people can relate this theme to something in their lives as well.”
Ms. Judas emphasized that instead of simply being depressing, the program will take an uplifting approach.
The program will include a siyum led by Shalom Krisher of Teaneck, the husband of NechamaComfort board member Ellen Krisher, and that will allow people who otherwise would not eat meat during the nine days to do so. His talk will be followed by a barbecue, which “will be a time to socialize among friends and family,” Ms. Judas said. NechamaComfort hopes to make this memorial an annual event.
Communities from all over the tristate area are invited, and families who have experienced infant or pregnancy loss at any time in their lives are invited to honor the memory of their children. Their losses will be symbolized by released butterflies. Families will have the option of signing a leaf as a tangible way to remember their lost children.
“The Jewish community handles infant and pregnant loss differently than other communities” — it tends to keep them quiet — “and I want those who have suffered this loss to know that they can grieve in any way that they are comfortable with — but have the choice to do so — whether their loss was recent or decades ago,” Ms. Judas said. “They should put it in a place that is comfortable for their family.”
Ms. Judas will talk about NechamaComfort during the program. Its goals are not just to ask for much-needed financial support for the programs it now runs and those it hopes to establish, but also “to give a place and time for people of all Jewish denominations to remember and honor their babies, if they have or have not in the past,” Ms. Judas said.
To learn more about the program, about support groups, or about NechamaComfort, go to its website, NechamaComfort.com.