Teaneck—NechamaComfort is breaking the silence around pregnancy and baby loss in the Jewish community. Our community speaks with great candor about the shidduch crisis, scores of young men and women, searching for years for their bashert, only to be met with disappointment and loneliness.
The subject is discussed from all angles, with the hopes that with enough conversation and understanding, we can minimize the number of single people within the Jewish community and insure that they find their soul mate so they can marry and build beautiful homes filled with Torah and Children.
But what happens when things don’t go as planned? What happens when a couple is lucky enough to meet and marry, optimistic about the family they plan to build together, and then, discover the heartache of pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or the death of their baby. Who do they turn to? How are they supposed to process this silent sorrow?
The subject of pregnancy and baby loss is high on the list of “taboos” that go undiscussed in our community, and the resulting isolation and lack of understanding from those around us can make a heartbreaking and confusing time so much harder. Reva Judas has single handedly made it her life’s mission to change that. Reva, a resident of Teaneck for nearly 30 years, has always been candid about the life and death of her son, Pesach, who passed away when he was just 12 hours old, on April 16 1987. Because of her naturally outgoing personality, Reva found herself as the “unofficial go-to person” when someone within the community had experienced a loss. In those days there were no support groups to offer help, not even in the secular world. When one experienced a loss, they were told to “go home and try again.” Hardly the level of help that we now know is so vital and beneficial to a complex and often lifelong healing journey.
After nearly 20 years of fielding phone calls from members in and out of the community asking for help, advice, supportand understanding, Revadecided the time had come to make her mission official. She received grief training and in July 2010 founded the 501c3 Non-profit NechamaComfort (Formerly Nechama) to help those in need navigate the complicated, misunderstood, and never publicly discussed topic of pregnancy and baby loss. In addition to ongoing local support meetings at Holy Name Hospital, NechamaComfortprovides training sessions for rebbetzins in other communities. Reva also organizes community events to help those not directly affected by loss to understand the enormity of these experiences so people can be better prepared and educated when it comes to empathizing and offering support to their loved ones, friends and neighbors in times of loss.
This past May, Reva took the stage at RinatYisroel on West Englewood Ave. in Teaneck and shared her experience with candor and honesty. She shared stories from women that have spent their lives afraid to grieve their losses. She answered some of the questions she is asked time and again. Are you allowed to sit Shiva? To light a Shabbos candle? Say Yizkor? The answers: yes, yes and again, yes.
Though I am a regular contributor to JLBC, I attended this event not as a reporter. I attended as a mother who has lost two babies, identical twin girls that were stillborn at 23.5 weeks, in 2009. I connected with Reva a few years ago. She’d learned about me and my mission to bring baby loss “out of the closet” so that women could find support and healing and we connected around this shared goal. The isolation experienced by families after loss only serves to intensify the pain, shame and guilt that are often felt.
By creating events like this in and around our community, Reva is providing an open channel of communication to discuss these incredibly difficult topics. With greater understanding, these women and families can receive greater support from those that yearn to do something, but don’t know what they can do. After Reva’s discussion I offered to read an article I’d written in commemoration of International Bereaved Mother’s Day, held every year on the Sunday before Mother’s Day to recognize all the mothers that do not have all of their babies with them. Reading that article was an unexpected addition to the itinerary but I felt it would help others’ understand that, often, to a mother, a loss is not a “failed pregnancy”—it is the loss of a child that is loved and will be missed and grieved for, no matter how many other children she may have.
I believe that our deepest grief can introduce us to our potential for our greatest joy, and that for true healing to begin we must first acknowledge what we’ve lost. The silence and confusion that fill our community around this difficult and heartbreaking topic only fuels the isolation and shame felt by the couples affected by it. Reva Judas has made it her life’s mission to help these parents. NechamaComfort is a strongly needed resource, founded with the intent to inform, support, to provide comfort and practical advice to parents in need.
For more information and to learn how you can get involved, check out
www.nechamacomfort.org or email nechamacomfort_gmail.com.
by Tova Gold