Turbulent pregnancies and infancy loss are more common than we realize. Families do not advertise miscarriages, nor do they share when they occur again and again. Families do not discuss difficulties conceiving or the emotional toll of the ordeal. The entire process of a loss is unfortunately still taboo. There are a handful of organizations that have sprouted to give comfort and guidance to these couples, but what you are about to read is one local family’s plight and pledge to keep unity in times of uncertainty. You will see how harmony in the face of hurt led to a dream realized for a cause of helping those who suffer in silence, building a legacy of healing and everlasting hope.
The Jewish community is not immune to these difficulties, and through involvement in sharing the message of hope, I can attest to hundreds of families that deal with child loss and the troubles that surround a pregnancy. The stats are sobering: Around 10-15% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. To bring the message home even further, the following annual figures display countless families reeling in agony. After just 20 weeks of pregnancy, there are 26,000 stillbirths; after one month alive, 19,000 children return home; before the first year of life concludes, 39,000 infants pass away. It may sound staggering, but the concept of even knowing one is pregnant is a modern feat solved by at-home pregnancy tests. Next time you scroll through your phone or take a walk outside, you are bound to encounter families that have experienced this loss, or at a bare minimum know someone who has.
When I asked a couple who survived the pain of losing a child from a congenital heart defect how they came through, I was told it was the hopes and dreams of what is to come. This local couple took advantage of the fertility advancement treatments; they praise the technology available, but note that their friends are not always as understanding. “One of my closest friends crossed the street to avoid a conversation.” Today, the two women have since reconciled through educating each other and their community on what to say, how to react, and most importantly how to be helpful. They say that one should treat a loss like any other loss, but a couple in the thick of it knows there is more to uncover.
When I came across the Beroukhims’ vision of hope, I was eager to raise awareness on a topic that is becoming less of a stigma.
Pesach will mark one year since Kamy and Karine Beroukhim lost their precious gift – a beautiful son. The Kew Gardens Hills couple spent much of the past year contemplating the correct manner to honor their temporary blessing from Heaven. The notion of undertaking the painstaking work of commissioning a sefer Torah seemed the most appropriate distinction to elevate their experience. After much thought, the Beroukhims opted to dedicate this special scroll, hoping to one day be blessed with a child and as a sense of remembrance for the families that underwent similar loss. The Imrei Sheifer writes of a s’gulah for these families, that penning a sefer Torah is an effective strategy, adding that he bore witness to its success. “We did not know about this merit when we chose to take on this mission, but the hashgachah pratis could never be more apparent,” explained Kamy, a dedicated longtime member of Chevra Hatzolah of Queens, Chaverim of Queens, and Misaskim of Queens.
Sunday, May 10, 2015, was a fantastic day for the Hatuel and Beroukhim families, as Karine and Kamy celebrated their wedding ceremony. The joyous couple, now members of Kehilas Torah Temima, set out to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael, a faithful home among the Jewish people. The months leading up to the eighth night of this past Pesach were filled with eagerness and excitement, as the expectant couple made plans and shared their delight. It was on April 15 at 8:26 p.m. that Hashem brought joy to their lives – albeit briefly. “An unexpected complication caused the baby to be placed in the NICU, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” explained Kamy to the Queens Jewish Link. The couple’s elation soon turned to worry as they awaited word. “We only once had the opportunity to hold our baby, and count his fingers and toes,” said Karine, an elementary school teacher in Great Neck. “Unfortunately, just two days later, Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, decided that our beautiful, precious baby boy had finished his tikun in this world, and Hashem took him to sit by his throne of glory in shamayim,” they explained. “We note the kindness and efforts of both Chesed Shel Emes and Agudath Israel of America’s Chayim Aruchim for helping us though the difficult period.
This pain is more common than we may be aware. Often masked in embarrassment or shame, the general public does not get the chance to walk a heartbroken couple through their agony. “Although we may not exactly understand why we were chosen to be that couple that had to let go of our beautiful child so soon, we knew deep down that it was meant to be this way,” said Kamy. “During the short time our son was with us, we had the z’chus to see how special he was,” added his wife.
In the two days that followed the birth, friends and family joined in fervent prayer, hoping to change the tides. “Our little miracle inspired thousands of people to join together to shake the heavens with their prayers,” expressed Karine. “Countless books of T’hilim were read. Hundreds of women baked challah on a short Friday, just one day after Pesach, in the merit that our son would see a y’shuah.”
Kamy, who is professionally in real estate management, explained how the klal jumped into this effort in a way he had not seen prior. “Most of these amazing people had no idea who we were. All they knew was that another Jew was hurting and in need of t’filos and that they were going to do whatever was needed to help.” The couple took comfort in knowing that their special boy brought unity and chesed into a world filled with tragedy and pain as a virus spread rampant around them.
As the only Shabbos with their son set in, Kamy and Karine lit the Shabbos candles in their hospital room, allowing their energy to fill the room with each flicker of the flames. “We knew that our son had already done so much to make this world a better place,” said Karine. “I was a mother, for only a brief moment, and I am left speechless to explain the generosity of those in my midst – I wasn’t alone.” The messages, meals, condolences kept pouring in for days, weeks, and even months,” continued Karine. “Today, when I think about these moments, it gives me the push I often need to get through my day and continue praising Hashem,” concluded Karine. “We want to thank each of you for all the prayers that were said on behalf of our son and for the outpouring of love and support we received. I know that our son’s neshamah is looking down on us and praying for us and all of klal Yisrael,” noted Kamy.
In the months that followed, and to deal with the medical options and emotional toll of a previous miscarriage, the Beroukhims turned to Orthodox Jewish organizations for advice and guidance. A Time, Bonei Olam, and Puah each lent a helping hand and advice along the way. “I was surprised to learn that my friends were also dealing with a miscarriage,” explained Karine after she had revealed her situation. For those who are tech savvy, Karine mentioned an Instagram account @iwassupposedtohaveababy that provides advice on how to respond to others who were hit with a loss. “The account helps one relate to others who experienced this trauma and become relatable,” she said.
So, how can such a distressing experience be turned into a constructive, optimistic moment? “My husband and I spent a lot of time trying to decide how to turn this tragic event into something positive,” pointed out Karine. “We asked ourselves how we could continue the legacy of unity and chesed that was started on the day our son was born,” said Kamy.
Together, the couple found a way to include all those who joined in prayer and mitzvos on those two days and set out to write a sefer Torah dedicated to families struggling to have children or who have lost a child. Mental health is of utmost importance, and m’nuchas ha’nefesh for a family overcoming pain should always be a priority. The mission of the Beroukhims plays a major role in destigmatizing miscarriages, stillbirths, and infancy loss – especially in the Jewish community.
The Beroukhims are well underway with this powerful campaign, and only a handful of dedications remain to complete the sefer Torah. The Rambam writes that when someone donates money for the writing of a sefer Torah, it is counted as if he wrote it. Kamy and Karine would be overjoyed to have our readership partake in this tremendous mitzvah. “Donate for yourself, or in the merit that someone who is going through this hard test will finally see their y’shuos,” said Kamy. “We are thrilled to share the s’gulos of writing a sefer Torah with anyone who can benefit,” mentioned Karine. The dedication ceremony for the Torah is set for the first yahrzeit of the couple’s son, putting into motion a continuation of the unity and chesed that he brought to this world, bringing nechamah to all in pain.
Visit www.babyberoukhim.com to see the story and make a donation for Baby Beroukhim’s sefer Torah.
By Shabsie Saphirstein