|The new mikvah at Sterling Place in Teaneck will open as soon as it has collected enough rainwater.|
Because the Jewish population in Teaneck and surrounding towns has been growing for three decades, the idea of a Friday-night mikvah south of Route 4 has been on the drawing board for nearly 20 years.
That need is expected to be met next month, when, rains permitting, a satellite mikvah opens in the township on Sterling Place.
While the facility is complete, 1,100 gallons of pure rainwater must be collected before the mikvah can function, Rabbi Larry Rothwachs said. That’s why the opening date is uncertain.
Rabbi Rothwachs, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Aaron in Teaneck, is “point” rabbi for the new facility, which is about two miles south of the main mikvah, on Windsor Road.
For an immersion to be kosher, the mikvah must contain pure rainwater that never has been contained in a receptacle. The rainwater must be collected in a “bohr,” or in-ground collecting pool, and ultimately will mix with regular, filtered water in the immersion pool. Rabbi Rothwachs estimates that as of this writing, the “bohr” holds about half that amount.
The new mikvah, containing one immersion pool, five preparation rooms, and one waiting area, is slated for use only on erev Shabbat – Friday nights – and erev yom tov – an evening on which a holiday begins. Groundbreaking for the project took place last year, on the heels of a major renovation of Teaneck’s main mikvah.
“When we began the Windsor Road renovation, we decided the time had come, and we would focus next on building a mikvah for the south side of town,” said Miriam Greenspan, president of the Teaneck Mikvah Association. “The Windsor Road mikvah is also available for Friday night and yom tov use, but to get there could be a three-mile walk for some women,” said Greenspan. That is an issue because most of the women who use the mikvah do not drive during those times.
“There are as many as 600 families on the south side of Route 4, from which this new mikvah will draw,” said Rachelle Mandelbaum, the Teaneck Mikvah Association board member who is in charge of the project. She oversaw its various stages, including finding and buying the property from the Teaneck Jewish Center, hiring an architect, managing the construction, and shepherding the project through the Teaneck zoning process.
While there are mikvahs in Englewood, Fair Lawn, Fort Lee, Paramus, Passaic, and Tenafly, the Sterling Place mikvah is the only one in the area built specifically with the restricted use in mind. Mandelbaum said she toured eight of the nearly two dozen Friday-night mikvahs in Monsey with Monsey mikvah board member Adeena Mayerfeld before the Teaneck project began.
In a statement, she said: “The opening of the Friday night mikvah represents a momentous time in our mikvah’s history and in our community. It is the result of the hard work of many people over many years and was truly a team effort. We are extremely grateful to Miriam Greenspan and the board of the Teaneck Mikvah Association for their commitment to the project and for their assistance in bringing it to fruition.
“We thank our local rabbonim for their support and guidance through the process and to our contractor, Eli Kolb, for his attention to detail, expertise, and going above and beyond to ensure the completion of the project to the highest standard.”
Rabbi Rothwachs noted the halachic injunction that building a mikvah takes precedence over building a house of worship. While there is no shortage of synagogues in Teaneck, he said it is appropriate to go to great lengths with regard to a woman fulfilling the mitzvah of t’villa, or immersion in a mikvah, firstly because it is a religious duty.
But also, taharat hamishpacha – the laws of family purity, which mandate that a woman immerse in a mikvah after her menstrual period ends before she can resume intimate relations with her husband – “serve to refresh the intimate relationship between husband and wife, and that relationship is the foundation upon which family life is built.”
Given the religious and emotional characteristics of the mitzvah, he said, “It is best to fulfill it in the most optimal way. So, when it happens that a woman’s time to go to the mikvah is Friday night, we don’t want inconvenience to be a reason for delay.
“Additionally, Judaism views marriage and intimacy as matters of holiness, and Shabbos is the holiest day of the year,” he continued. “So it stands to reason that there really is no more appropriate time to celebrate this aspect of our holy lives than on Shabbos. Mikvah aside, our rabbis tell us that marital intimacy is encouraged on Friday night. It’s the fulfillment of the greater goal of Shabbos, which is to instill our lives with holiness.”
Until the water is collected, the mikvah will remain closed, and as proscribed by halachah, the doors will be taped shut. That is to ensure that no one enters and nothing can contaminate the water. In Teaneck, that is more a theoretical than an actual concern, Rabbi Rothwachs said. Based on recent and predicted weather patterns, he hopes the mikvah will be open within the next month.
“We’re just waiting for rain,” he said.
In a related development, about 800 women honored Miriam Feman, the head attendant at the Winsdor Road mikvah, when she was feted in November for 27 years of service to the community. Held at Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, the women-only fundraising event paid tribute to the Iranian-born Teaneck woman, who escaped her native country alone in 1979, when she was 16. That was on the eve of the Iranian revolution and the Shah’s downfall. A video interview with Ms. Feman recounted her harrowing journey and the miracles that led her to safety.