They’re Puah’s unsung heroes, found at the very heart of our organization’s vast operations. Our more than 100 mashgichot, or halachic supervisors, make themselves available at any time, at any place, day in, day out, in order to be present at every single procedure requiring supervision that a couple undergoes.
These women (because of the nature of the procedures they supervise, the majority of supervisors are women, while male mashgichim attend the procedures for men) work with great mesirut nefesh to perform their holy task, yet their work is done so quietly, with such little fanfare, that most people are unaware of the high level of personal sacrifice the mashgichot take on.
Allow us to introduce you to Puah’s heroes.
What is halachic supervision? There are many highly sensitive halachic issues that can arise in fertility procedures, including proof of parentage. A halachic supervisor ensures that procedures are conducted according to halacha, and that all genetic material is labeled, stored and transferred with 100-percent accuracy. Supervisors come to hospitals, clinics and labs, attending the fertility process from beginning to end.
Our supervisors go through a rigorous training seminar, in which they learn the ins and outs of both the medical procedures and their halachic requirements. But there is much more to being a mashgicha than simple technical knowledge. Our mashgichot provide emotional support as well, serving as the couple’s anchor through the confusing and often frightening process.
What qualifies someone to become a mashgicha? According to Rivky Itzkowitz, East Coast director of supervision, Puah looks for women with certain qualities, including sensitivity, discretion, the ability to think on their feet and diplomacy—crucial when working in a professional environment.
But, above all, it is their dedication that distinguishes them.
Any time. It is common for IVF procedures, which begin with the egg retrieval on Sunday, to conclude with the embryo transfer on Friday. This means that a supervisor frequently makes herself available for this hours-long procedure on Friday morning, afternoon and, sometimes, into Shabbat as well.
Any place. Argentina. Australia. Columbia. Chile. Europe. Israel. Canada. All 50 states of America. Dedicated mashgichot are ready and willing to travel by plane, train or automobile to assist couples undergoing procedures in far-flung locales that don’t have their own local, trained supervisors.
A New York-based mashgicha was asked to fly to Panama to supervise an urgent procedure—immediately. The mashgicha, who had just finished supervising a procedure in Manhattan, instantly dashed for the subway, calling to book a plane ticket as she ran. Meanwhile, her husband packed her bags, picked her up from the subway, and sped her over to the airport. Crying “medical emergency!” she was able to get to the front of the long airport lines and board the soon-to-depart plane.
Any time. It was the recent Shabbat of erev Purim. A woman was undergoing a procedure in a Manhattan hospital, and required supervision. The mashgicha, who was traveling into Manhattan from her home in Philadelphia, agreed to the job even though it meant staying in New York not only for Shabbat but also for Purim night. She only went home the following afternoon to rejoin her family for the holiday.
It should be noted that, though their dedication is limitless, there are limits to where and when supervision can take place. Forty-eight hour notice is required. Mashgichot can only work where they have permission from the facility, and, in general, one-week advance notice is required for out-of-town locations.
Puah is proud to announce that this comprehensive supervision service, always generously subsidized, will now be fully subsidized in the tristate area, thanks to a new fund! Just one more way Puah works to ensure the road to fertility is as smooth as possible.
Any time. Any place. Our mashgichot are always available, always there to assist our couples in their journey to parenthood. No matter where that journey may be.
By Gila Arnold