Nurturing New Mothers in Crown Heights

For mothers who just gave birth, Shifra and Puah’s luxurious home-cooked breakfasts, as well cleaning help, Shabbos catered, and babysitting, are lifesavers, and are the brainchild of three Crown Heights women.

From Anash Magazine – published by

The distinct wail of a newborn pierces through her hazy fog of sleep. The young mother groggily reaches over to the infant beside her. She lifts him to soothe him, vaguely wondering what time it is. The numbers 3:20 glow up on the bedside clock. Is he hungry? she wonders. Didn’t I just feed him an hour and a half ago? Maybe he needs to be changed. Exhaustedly, she goes through her mental checklist and tries to figure out how to soothe the tiny distraught human being beside her.

9:00 am. Her husband is at work and for the last few hours she’s been feeding, changing, and soothing, with barely a wink of sleep in between. Suddenly, she hears the doorbell ring. To her, the ring of the doorbell sounds like it is accompanied by the singing of angels and the drumbeats of a parade. Finally, salvation has arrived from Shifra U’Puah Crown Heights.

It has come in the shape of a beautiful gift bag filled to the brim with neatly packaged containers of fresh salads, fruit shakes, stuffed sandwiches, pies, and pastries. To her body, the breakfast is a boost of nutrition to refill her being that has been depleted by sustaining another life; to her tired mind, it’s finally time to take a break and replenish her energy; and to her soul, it’s a balm that heals and washes away the pressure and stress that has consumed her with the responsibility of caring for a newborn. To her, it is a salvation. It is support and warmth and comfort: someone sees her tired eyes, someone appreciates the sacrifice she is making, and someone cares.

Thirteen years ago on Yud Shvat, a group of Israeli women got together for the first Hebrew-speaking N’shei Chabad event in Crown Heights. In attendance, were Mrs. Shlomit Slapochnik, together with Mrs. Shlomit Slapochnik, Mrs. Michla Segal, and Mrs. Chani Farkash who currently run the organization.

“At the farbrengen,” Mrs. Slapochnik told, “we brainstormed how to incorporate chessed into our new N’shei Chabad group. In Kfar Chabad, the Shifra U’Puah has always been a very active organization, one we were all very familiar with. We decided to start with cooking breakfast for women who had recently given birth.”

The Shifra and Puah organization began in the middle of Yom Kippur 5737 (1977) when – reminiscent of the Alter Rebbe stopping his Yom Kippur tefilos to prepare hot food for a woman who just gave birth – the Rebbe sent a message to Kfar Chabad’s mayor, R’ Shlomo Maidanchik, to arrange for all young women to have their needs taken care of.

Taking inspiration from the Rebbeim, the group of Crown Heights women chose to help newly postpartum mothers who did not have family around them to help, as their first initiative.

The first week the breakfast service began, the women found their first two community members who gave birth that week and delivered a nourishing luxurious home-cooked breakfast for two weeks.

“I was just speaking to one of the volunteers who was there since the beginning,” says Mrs. Slapochnik, “and she recalled when she had only two meals to deliver. This week, we delivered over thirty meals!”

As the organization grew, they extended their services to any new mother, not just those who didn’t have family. When the Rebbe spoke about creating Shifra U’Puah, the Rebbe wanted it to be there for all women who gave birth – and that was now becoming a reality.

When the number of women giving birth in Crown Heights exceeded the group’s workforce, they joined forces with the Junior N’shei organization, led by Mrs. Malka Michla Perlow, Mrs. Chaya Roitblat, and Mrs. Miriam Goldshmidt. Now, these two groups are organizing and preparing the hand-delivered breakfasts each morning. Delivering breakfast may seem like a small gesture, but for a mother recovering from birth and working overtime to feed and nurture a baby, the support is indescribable.

“Thank you so much!” wrote one woman after receiving Shifra U’Puah breakfasts, “I don’t know how to thank you and all the amazing women part of this unbelievable organization. I hesitated to sign up after my birth, and didn’t know if I would be adding pressure with fewer volunteers in the summer, but I felt I could use that help, nurture, and care. It truly made me feel like my simcha was being celebrated, that I wasn’t alone (especially after my mother’s passing a few months ago). Please pass on a huge thank you to all involved!”

Aside from the staple breakfast delivery service, Shifra U’Puah offers cleaning help to mothers who sign up for it, a Shabbos catered from A-Z, high school girls to help take care of the other small children at home. They also subsidize services like a doula, kimpeturin home, and a lactation consultant for those who need.

One critical area where they have helped tremendously is raising awareness and getting help for mothers suffering through postpartum depression. When a mother needs extra help and support, they will sensitively ensure that she gets the help and support she needs.

Volunteers share how their children help with the preparations, allowing them to see the value of chessed and want to join when they grow up. “It’s so special for my children to see that chessed is done for simchos too,” one volunteer shared. “They’ve seen me send meals for not such good occasions, and it’s heartwarming for them to feel the sense of communal family when we join in happy occasions.”

To volunteer or support Crown Heights Shifra U’Puah, click here.

This article first appeared in Anash Magazine – published by

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