The Hebrew word “nechama” means comfort. The organization NechamaComfort does what its name says twice over that it will do — it helps families deal with the trauma of miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.
The idea for NechamaComfort came 31 years ago, when Reva Judas’s first son, Pesach, died 12 hours after he was born. “No one knew how to help us,” Ms. Judas said. “I was determined to make sure no one would go through this agony alone.”
For years, Ms. Judas, who lives in Teaneck, counseled grieving families; people found her by word of mouth. Several years ago, however, NechamaComfort incorporated, and two years ago Judas brought additional members onto the team. The staff, which now is all volunteer until more funds are raised, is led by Ms. Judas, who has a chaplaincy certification and is a certified infant/pregnancy loss facilitator. The other volunteers all are trained in infant/pregnancy loss counseling and include one physician and one registered nurse.
On Monday evening, July 23, NechamaComfort will host its second annual benefit dinner at Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck. The whole community — both men and women, from all Jewish streams — is invited as it honors the memories of lost children with a short ceremony. The funds raised will ensure that NechamaComfort can help everyone who calls them.
The timing of the dinner — NechamaComfort’s only fundraiser — is not accidental. It’s set between Tisha B’Av and the Shabbat that always follows that fast day, Shabbat Nachamu. That’s that Shabbat of comfort after the grief of the devastation of the Temple in Jerusalem and the other tragedies that have marred Jewish history.
NechamaComfort has a three-tiered approach to the services it offers women and their families. The first — which Ms. Judas calls the most important — is “immediate support at the time of loss, including helping to navigate difficult decisions about burial and rituals, individual counseling, extended family counseling, and support groups.” Next, there is education — community awareness programs, medical staff training, and clergy training. And then there is advocacy work — networking with regional infant/pregnancy loss task force, supporting relevant legislation, and raising awareness via social and print media.
NechamaComfort does not charge for the services it provides.
NechamaComfort works mainly in the tristate area but has helped families and communities all over United States and the world, including Israel, Canada, and South Africa. “One of our brochures was spotted in Hong Kong,” Ms. Judas said. “However, we are especially lucky in Bergen County to work closely with the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey. They house the monthly support group and are a great resource for other services that a family might need.”
Those support groups meet at the JFCS offices, 1485 Teaneck Road in Teaneck on the second Tuesday of every month, from 7 to 9 p.m. People who need NechamaComfort’s advice and support, or more information about the groups, can call its hotline, 1 (833) NECHAMA, or they can email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Judas, NechamaComfort has helped more than 500 families over the past few years, and it receives about four or five calls per week. It also has training events for clergy and medical staff, along with community awareness events, which educate others about how to address friends or family members who have suffered a loss.
“For the people we have been able to reach, we have accomplished our goal of supporting them for their immediate needs and letting them know we will be with them as long as they need,” Ms. Judas said. “The clergy, doctors and medical staff we have trained are able to be effective advocates for their congregants and patients. But we need to reach more people. Although we feel good about the people we have been able to reach, we also know how many people still need our help, and how much training still needs to be done.”
What: Will host its second annual benefit dinner of “remembrance, comfort, and renewal.
Where: At Congregation Keter Torah, 600 Roemer Ave., Teaneck
When: On Monday, July 23, at 7 p.m.
How much: $72 per person; sponsorship opportunities are available
For more information or reservations: Go to nechamacomfort.com