Hackensack UMC Dedicates Shomer Shabbat Suites

Pictured at the ribbon cutting of the newly refurbished “Suites on Second Street” at Hackensack UMC’s Audrey Hepburn Children’s House are (l-r) Robert Budelman, Dr. Stephen Percy, Rabbi Chaim Poupko, Ayelet Poupko, Dr. Ihor Sawczuk, Elana Poupko, Shoshana Poupko, Emma Ferrer, Benita Sanzari Raia, Dana Sanzari Jareck, Jennifer McGee, Ro Sorce, Heather Choi.

The Suites on Second Street sounds like the name of a fancy hotel. However, they are much better, and infinitely more useful than that. The Suites include newly renovated rooms at the Audrey Hepburn Children’s House, where shomer Shabbat families can stay, with everything they need, when they have a child being treated at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack.

When Rabbi Chaim Poupko, associate rabbi at Englewood’s Congregation Ahavath Torah, and his wife, Dr. Shoshana Poupko, who works as dean of students at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, learned that the Alfred N. Sanzari Family Foundation was planning to fully renovate the Audrey Hepburn Children’s House, they asked to participate and create rooms for shomer Shabbat families. The Poupkos raised $100,000 from Ahavath Torah congregants in just two weeks. Rabbi Poupko said the hospital’s construction team coordinated work on the Shabbat rooms with his wife and a group of women from Bikur Cholim of Bergen County.

“From the moment the rooms were ready to go in March, they have been used,” Rabbi Poupko said. “We have gotten wonderful feedback and that’s exactly what we wanted to accomplish.”

The Poupkos wanted to help shomer Shabbat families avoid the complicated logistics they faced when their daughter, Chana Poupko, z”l, was treated for cancer at Hackensack University Medical Center three years ago. The couple took turns on alternating Fridays walking two and a half hours to Hackensack so one parent could stay home with their other children.

The residence now has Shabbat elevators that stop on all floors automatically. “That turned out to be a major upgrade,” Rabbi Poupko explained. “They had to install better-quality machinery and outfit it with different equipment.” There are two Shabbat rooms in the residence, one for men and one for women with children. Each apartment has a private bath and a kitchenette with a microwave, refrigerator, warming cart and electric hot water urn that can be turned on before Shabbat and left on. Bikur Cholim of Bergen County stocks and cleans out the refrigerators weekly.

“Now, Hackensack University Medical Center is a real option for Orthodox families seeking treatment for their loved ones who might not have been able to be here otherwise in the past,” said Dr. Poupko. “The treatment we got at Hackensack University Medical Center is what propelled us to do this; we were treated like family and we are still in touch, three years later, with some of the staff there.”

“Because of these upgrades, observant Jews can use the front entrance and access the elevator, warm up kosher food that’s stocked in the refrigerators, and siblings can play games and read books that are now available,” said Rabbi Poupko. “The Shabbat rooms are easing some of the stress during an especially trying time.”

The newly refurbished residence was reopened in March as Suites on Second Street at the Audrey Hepburn Children’s House with a total of six fully modernized suites. An additional $15,000 is being raised to install a paved path around the side entrance and to landscape the area. Anyone interested in making a donation to support this initiative should contact Amy Glazer, director, Tackle Kids Cancer and Annual Giving, at 551-996-3720.

In addition to stocking the rooms, Bikur Cholim of Bergen County is also responsible for access to them. For reservations and information about these suites, please call Bikur Cholim at: 201-579-3066 or visit their site at: bikurcholimbergencounty.org.