On Nov. 7, the Teaneck Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously approved revised plans for the expansion of the Teaneck mikvah on Windsor Road.
For the hundreds of women who use the ritual bath up to 40 each night the news is welcome, as the 19-year-old facility has long been inadequate for the needs of the observant community.
The quick approval was a stark contrast to the drawn-out process involved in getting the initial expansion plans approved in May of ‘003. At that time, variances finally were granted for a scaled-down plan after three long meetings.
Miriam Greenspan, president of the Mikvah Association, explained why the hard-won expansion wasn’t implemented and why new drawings had to be approved now.
"We had been fund-raising and fine-tuning the plans, and we were also testing the ground for well water, which would have been cheaper for us," she said. "And then the house next door came on the market. So we bought it about a year and a half ago, and we realized that if we incorporated into what we’d already planned, we’d get more space."
Six months ago, the association submitted the revised plan, which adds 800 square feet to the footprint of the original plan to encompass an additional mikvah pool for a total of three. As in the original plan, the number of preparation rooms will go from six to ‘0.
"The layout is more efficient, the rooms and hallways are a little bigger, and the handicap access is better," said Greenspan. It also allows for additional parking spaces on the north side of the building, which abuts Temple Emeth.
Greenspan said she was relieved but not surprised by the smooth passage of the revised plan.
"We’d gone to the town first and said, ‘What do we need to get this passed?’ We had a little guidance and decided to keep whatever variances we already had and didn’t ask for additional ones," she said. "We were just trying to get a better mikvah."
Rabbi Yaacov Neuberger of Bergenfield’s Cong. Beth Abraham testified before the panel at both the ‘003 and ‘006 hearings, explaining that mikvah is "one of the definitive aspects of Jewish observance and lifestyle."
Married women immerse in the mikvah at night, following seven days from the end of their menstrual period, at which time a physical relationship with their husbands can resume. This biblically mandated practice, he said, "enhances the pleasure a husband and wife can provide for each other and thus lends stability and harmony to family life."
The mikvah also is used during the day by new converts of both sexes and by some men on Friday mornings or before holy days such as Yom Kippur. In some Orthodox communities, a man may go to the mikvah before his wedding.
Technically, a mikvah can be any natural body of water or pool of gathered rainwater. But because climatic conditions and privacy considerations make this impractical, the modern mikvah is a tiled, heated pool of mixed rainwater and chemically treated tap water. Surrounding the pools are bathrooms where women prepare for immersion by bathing and showering, since it is forbidden to enter a mikvah with any impediment between body and water.
Neuberger stressed that the building must accommodate coming and going in private, which was one consideration in the mikvah’s expansion. At present, one door from the parking lot serves as both entrance and exit, and there is one corridor to and from the waiting area. According to Greenspan, the expansion plan allows for a separate entrance and exit, as well as separate corridors to the preparation rooms and the pools.
Now the association will resume and renew its fund-raising efforts ahead of a spring groundbreaking. Greenspan declined to say how much money is needed or when the renovated facility might be completed.
"We’re moving forward," she said. "We’re enthusiastic because it’s really a community-wide effort."