Bracha Jaffe, mother of five — including toddler twin boys — is a nurse practitioner and star singer
I was five and a half years old when I started piano lessons on our secondhand baby grand. For three years, I practiced diligently, and when my father saw I was serious about playing, he took me to the store and purchased the beautiful upright piano I use until today.
Both my parents are musical — my father plays the trumpet and has a beautiful voice; my mother plays accordion and integrates music into ordinary days. A beloved teacher, she was always teaching her students songs about the time of year, various concepts, Yiddishkeit.
A Dream Is Born
As I got older, it was trendy to audition for a frum girls’ choir. I auditioned for a popular all-girls children’s choir — and was passed over. It was a low blow to my self-esteem, but I picked myself up and auditioned for Malky Giniger. Malky was accepting a select few girls into her choir and I was one of those chosen.
Malky was a role model for me. I remember watching her perform with Kinneret at a concert, and being overwhelmed by the beauty of their performances.
On a high after watching them perform, I did something completely unheard of 20-something years ago: I asked my parents for voice lessons. They’ve always been my most stalwart supporters, and they agreed. That’s how I went from being a girl with a pretty voice to a professionally trained singer.
I started training with Malky, and continued with some of the top vocal coaches in the industry. My voice evolved into something strong; I led choirs in high school, ran kumzitzes, and sang at every possible opportunity. When I was 16, I spent the summer playing music and singing for the campers at Camp Simcha.
Even with all that, I didn’t know what to do after 12th grade. I wasn’t especially academic and was at a loss. My principal, Rabbi Stern, sat down with me and said, “Bracha, I think you’re going to be a nurse.” And suddenly, everything clicked. Nursing was the natural choice; it fit perfectly with my personality. My hakaras hatov to Rabbi Stern endures until today.
Strangest feedback I received: Well, some song lyrics are in Yiddish. And I must perform them pretty well, because a woman once came over to me and spoke in fast Yiddish for a full minute. I just smiled widely back, not wanting to blow my cover: I don’t understand a word of Yiddish.
Those around me know: When I set my mind to something, consider it done. I hired a tutor, successfully brought up my grades, and flew off to seminary. Upon my return from an incredible year, I embarked on several years of school and graduated with my nursing degree.
Throughout it all, I was busy with music. It was more than a hobby; it was my second mission. I performed for a number of chesed organizations and began teaching music for Malky Giniger.
When I was 19, I got married. My husband learned those first few years, and I was attending college; I supported us through my vocal training, piano lessons, and musical performances. I learned recordings and started to produce music as well.
Together, it provided a nice income, and people would tell me, “You don’t need to be a nurse, you’re so talented, just do music.” They couldn’t understand that I wanted to be a nurse. I still do. I’m as much a nurse as I am a singer.
My first position in the medical field was on the oncology ward. One day, I walked past a patient’s room and heard my CD, Forever, playing softly. I poked my head in and said, “Hey, that’s me!”
I was scheduled to administer her chemotherapy later that day, yet right then, we laughed and discussed music — a few minutes of escape from sickness and pain. We became close. It was painful when she passed away shortly after.
After oncology, I interviewed simultaneously for a position in a bone marrow transplant unit as well as for a spot in a labor and delivery ward. I got offers from both and I was conflicted. My husband said, “Bracha, don’t you think you’ve seen enough sadness and death?” So off I went to labor and delivery. And I loved it.
After three years empowering women at a crucial milestone in their life, I enrolled in a master’s program. Mom of three, I became a full-time student, all while performing musically for my growing fan base. I’d set myself a goal: Master’s degree before I turned 30 — and this was my chance.
After graduation, I worked in a private women’s health practice on Long Island, and it was great. A year and a half into it, I was invited to join Boro Park OBGYN.
I went down to the interview, half to be interviewed, half to interview them. Why should I leave my comfortable position in Long Island? Then I met Dr. Silverman, president of the practice, and he offered me the job. On a whim, I did something I’d never done before: I told someone in the medical field about my music career.
“I do music,” I told him. He asked me to elaborate. “I perform; I’ll need to travel.” When he still wasn’t scared away, I said, “Some of your patients might recognize me!” He just shrugged.
I took the job.
I love being a Nurse Practitioner, and Boro Park OBGYN is an incredible office, filled with caring, hardworking, competent people. I wake up every day and think, “Yes! This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
In my role as nurse, I encourage and support women on their healthcare journey, understanding their needs as only a frum woman can, empowering them to take care of themselves, to recognize how important their health is.
Music is my way of relaying my messages to the world. It’s not about being a star performer. I’m a frum mom and nurse who loves to sing, and is here to be mechazek women and spread the messages that I’m passionate about.
Once, I was asked to sing for a sick woman. I sang, and she sat reciting Tehillim. I felt our words meshing together into one incredible shirah to Hashem. I’m so grateful that this is what I get to do.
I know I’m blessed to have not one, but two fields I love, and to have seen success in both, baruch Hashem. I always feel supported and encouraged by those around me — my husband, parents, stepmom, siblings, friends, coworkers, kids — they’re what keeps me pushing forward.
Coming out before the Yamim Tovim is my newest song, composed by Chayale Newhaus and produced by Shai Bachar, accompanied by a music video. It might be my best work yet and I’m so excited to share it with you all.
It’s All Good
Just a month ago, I was in Eretz Yisrael to perform for Ezer Mizion in Binyanei Haumah, which can seat thousands. Twenty-four hours before the concert, I was in the dressing room, trying on my dress for rehearsal, when I got the call: the Israeli government just canceled the live audience due to Covid regulations.
For a moment, I was frozen. And then I relaxed. Hakol l’tovah. This is what Hashem planned. It’s all about perspective; very few things can be deemed a disaster if you refuse to view them as such. And it was an incredibly special show, streamed to an amazing live audience.
I remember a patient of mine in the oncology ward, almost ten years ago, whose medical chart seemed inaccurate. It claimed she was dying, but the woman in front of me was vivacious, full of life, and so grateful for every single thing done for her.
When they called to inform me of her levayah, it just wouldn’t compute. A woman with such an incredibly alive perspective couldn’t be gone. Her husband calls to thank me every year for all that I gave her; every year I cry and say, “And what about what she gave me?”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 760)
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