By Rachel Groskopf
That a Jewish woman wears many hats is not a novel idea. Bracha Jaffe, a 25-year-old Boro Park native now living in Far Rockaway, is no exception. A wife and mother of two, talented songstress, and dedicated oncology nurse, Bracha is passionate about the diverse roles she plays. I sat down with Bracha to find out about the neshamah behind the microphone, the Forever music and dance production series, and why Ezer Mizion’s mission pulls at her heartstrings.
RG: How long have you been singing? Are you professionally trained?
BJ: Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started playing piano when I was four years old and loved it so much that by third grade my parents bought a piano for me to practice on at home. My love for piano was paralleled only by my love for singing. Nervous but determined, I auditioned for Malky Giniger’s Voices of Youth Choir. With Malky’s training and motivation, b’H, I grew vocally. In high school, I started teaching piano, gave voice lessons, and put on small performances. When it came to music, I couldn’t get enough, and I’ve been singing ever since!
RG: What inspired you to become a nurse? How long have you been practicing?
BJ: During high school, I worked at Camp Simcha, playing piano and singing for sick campers. Spending my summers with these children and volunteering as a big sister during the year, it became strikingly clear that I needed a profession where I could help oncology patients and people suffering from other illnesses. Nursing was the only job I felt I could devote myself to entirely–my time and my heart. I started nursing school as soon as I got back from seminary and have been working at Lenox Hill Hospital for nearly two and a half years in the oncology unit. B’ezras Hashem, one day I will transfer to a pediatric hematology and oncology unit or the bone marrow transplant unit.
RG: How did you hear about Ezer Mizion? What is it about Ezer Mizion’s mission that spoke to you?
BJ: I became familiar with the organization at a young age because my family is Israeli and my aunt works in the Ezer Mizion office in Rechovot. What Ezer Mizion does for Am Yisrael–from its work with cancer patients and food distribution program to its mental health services and terror orphan program–was a regular part of dinner conversation and really made an impact on me.
What touched me most deeply was Ezer Mizion’s Jewish Bone Marrow Registry. Working in an oncology unit, I have had patients with various types of leukemia and other blood disorders. At one point during my first year as an oncology nurse, I had two Jewish patients who needed bone marrow transplants–one newly married young man in his 20s and one father of three. After rounds of chemotherapy and months in the hospital, they waited and waited alongside their desperate families for a lifesaving match.
I wanted to do something big to help build awareness about the registry and its ability to save Jewish lives. Because of our DNA and the fact that Jews don’t intermarry, there is a 99 percent chance that a Jewish person requiring bone marrow will only match with a Jewish donor. I’m not one to sit around when I’m passionate about something, so this knowledge moved me to action.
RG: How did the Forever music and dance production series come to fruition?
BJ: In eleventh grade, I put together my first benefit for Ezer Mizion to raise money for costly donor testing and to spread awareness about the pressing need to grow the registry. The event showcased the talent of girls across 10 different Bais Yaakov schools in the New York area. With the help of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, we sold over 1,000 tickets and it was a great success. I was happy but even then I knew that we had to do more. I have been involved in productions to benefit Ezer Mizion ever since.
Last year, we put on a major performance in the Five Towns called “Light the Night” which received rave reviews. Women said it was the best fundraiser they’d ever attended, but my goal this year is to top last year’s successful concert and bring it to different neighborhoods.
RG: What can we expect at this year’s event? What do you hope to achieve?
BJ: To make the “Forever” production an uplifting, entertaining night out, this year we have an incredible professionally-trained choreographer working alongside a talented dance team. I’ll be headlining the event with six back-up singers, showcasing songs that really touch the spirit and remind us that we’re connected and responsible for one another. Last year, audience and cast were b’lev echad, singing together as one, and this year will be no different!
My goal is to bring Jewish women together to raise awareness about Ezer Mizion’s lifesaving Jewish Bone Marrow Registry. If we can save even one life, it will have been worth the while.
RG: Where will you be performing? Is it too late to get tickets?
BJ: Tickets are still available! This is a concert for women of all ages and is the perfect way to celebrate for a worthy cause. There will be a performance at the Brooklyn College Center for Performing Arts Theatre in Brooklyn on December 29 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets start at $26 and are available by phone at 877-EZER-MIZION, 718-853-8400 or online at ezermizionusa.org/forever. You can even buy them at stores–Eichlers in Boro Park, Eichlers, Judaica Place, or Torah Treasures in Flatbush, Tuvia’s in Monsey, and Doren’s in Monroe. I really hope to see you there! v