It may seem an unusual match—a Chabad rabbi giving the invocation at a conference for midwives, many of whom are non-Jewish. Yet Rabbi Mendel Popack wowed the audience last week at the 59th annual meeting of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, this year held in Denver, with his two-minute blessing.

“It was really beautiful. He hit it out of the ballpark,” said Lorrie Kaplan, CEO of the American College of Nurse-Midwives. “I’ve been here seven years for seven invocations and I’ve never had anyone ask for a copy of the invocation, and here, people asked for it so they could reprint and send it out to other members.”

Popack, 33, who co-directs the Jewish Life Center in the Stapleton area of Denver with his wife, Estee, says he was pleasantly surprised to be asked to give the May 14 invocation before more than 1,500 people at the conference.

“I thought it was an opportunity to inspire and share the values of Yiddishkeit with a large population of people who otherwise were not introduced to that,” he said. “I tried, in the few minutes I had, to share what Judaism would say. As a rabbi, I was praying on their behalf.”

“It was an opportunity to inspire,” he continued. “They have a very holy job and a strong responsibility at a delicate time in people’s lives.”

As part of his invocation, Popack said, in part: “Sovereign of the universe, who created all in love, teach us to love all that is good and beautiful in this world.”

“Allow us to recognize our gift of participating in the miracle of new beginnings as we stand by the side of future mothers at the most intimate time of their lives.”

“The Talmud relates that to sustain one life is equal to sustaining the entire world. Each individual is indeed an entire world. Grant us the wisdom to understand and appreciate this as we greet each new life, and the presence of mind to enhance and uplift the ‘world’ of each individual we encounter.”

Rabbi Mendel and Estee Popack
Rabbi Mendel and Estee Popack

According to Kaplan, Colorado is one of the leading states in the country when it comes to access to midwives. She noted that some 12 percent of births in the state are aided by a certified nurse-midwife.

Just how did the rabbi come to the attention of conference organizers, given that the organization’s national office is in Maryland?

Local member Amy Nacht is a friend of the Popacks and director of University Nurse Midwives at University Colorado Hospital. Nacht had been the family’s midwife when Estee Popack was pregnant with the younger of her two sons.

For her part, Popack was happy to accompany her husband to the program, saying “we both feel that delivering a baby and welcoming a new soul into the world is holy work.”