Less than two years ago, Peninah Kaplan, a single 26-year-old Highland Park resident, decided to start a WhatsApp tehillim group reciting daily psalms on behalf of those unable to have children.
Since that January 2018 launch, 55 babies have been born to friends, relatives, and group participants, some of whom are themselves infertile, who are given the Hebrew name of couples for whom they are praying. So why would a single woman think to help infertile couples?
“Honestly, I think the biggest thing I get out of it is being able to help people in their private struggle,” said Kaplan in a telephone interview with NJJN.
She said although she has no experience with infertility, growing up she knew people who were struggling, which left an “everlasting impact” on her.
“I can help by being the catalyst, the outlet for them,” said Kaplan of the group members who “have become like family to me,” sending her heartfelt thanks after they conceive. Additionally, she provides referrals to organizations that assist with infertility and with whom she has developed contacts.
Kaplan, an executive assistant at Allstate in North Brunswick, was encouraged to start the group by her mother, Rachel, who runs a similar group for singles seeking mates. Initially, Peninah protested that she had neither time nor energy. However, while mother and daughter were out for their monthly Rosh Chodesh dinner celebrating the new moon, Peninah became convinced that helping the infertile was her niche and she launched Tehillim for Children.
A new cohort forms every 40 days, since the number 40 signifies transition or change in the Torah and Talmud. Each participant selects three tehillim, or psalms, and agrees to recite them every day for those 40 days on behalf of about 40 couples, although the number varies. There have now been 26 rotations of groups.
Peninah sends out a daily reminder to participants and is assisted in her venture by her mother; sister, Adinah, a bridal attendant/event planner; and her cousin Simcha Kaplan, a DJ who is her supporting administrator. News of the group has spread through word of mouth, synagogue newsletters, flyers, a closed Facebook group, and on Instagram at tehillimforchildren, which is public.
“We are forever promoting ourselves,” said Peninah, adding that participants will be asked to give full names so they can be identified should they call with a question. The only people who will see the names are Peninah and Simcha.
“If I get 25 Rachels — right now I have five Rachels in one group — and a big group of Sarahs and five Karens, I would have no idea who I’m talking to,” explained Peninah.
Participants will also be asked to answer some questions. A link will be provided to assist in getting set up.
“I sometimes get overwhelmed and he helps me by answering questions,” she said of her cousin.
Someone who said her prayers were answered is Leah (not her real name), a Monsey, N.Y., woman who has been in 11 groups reciting tehillim on behalf of her daughter and son-in-law, who live in Bergen County, and had been trying unsuccessfully for several years to conceive. Her daughter had finally given birth to a healthy baby girl six weeks before in August with the help of in-vitro fertilization.
She learned of Kaplan’s group through one of the many apps or social media groups on her phone, but doesn’t recall which one.
“I was in the middle of a [Tehillim for Children] cycle when she was born and finished that cycle for the other people on my list,” said Leah, who said it takes about 10 minutes to recite the prayer and the names of everyone given to her on the list. “Because everyone takes three chapters of psalms every day the entire Sefer Tehillim [Book of Psalms] is being recited. It’s a big responsibility and we all take it very seriously.”
An additional prayer, citing the fertility struggles of our foremothers Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Chana, and asking the community to remember and embrace those in its midst also struggling, is also recited. The prayer is designed for incorporation into the Kol HaNearim portion of the Simchat Torah service, where children are called to the Torah, but can be recited anytime.
“Very often there were times I was praying and there was a text that would come in with a mazel tov for a couple who just had a baby boy or girl just to give everybody hope,” said Leah, noting that only the Hebrew names of the couple are used in the actual birth announcements to protect their privacy.
“It takes a lot of work from Peninah and it’s such a big mitzvah what she is doing,” she said. “She sends us inspirational quotes. I feel there’s so many ways out there now to help people. Doctors are the messengers of God, who has given them wisdom, but prayer is very helpful in combination with everything else.”
To join the group, contact Peninah Kaplan through WhatsApp at