A community-wide project that was conceived a half dozen years ago is rapidly approaching the finish line. The Chanukat HaBayit of Mikvah Chava Faiga will take place on May 31, followed by the official reopening the next day. Located at Shomrei Torah, it is a project steeped in achdut for the Fair Lawn community with communal and rabbinical participation from five area synagogues. The more than four years of conceptual planning and fundraising had a singular goal in mind — to enhance the mitzvah of taharat hamishpacha by completely overhauling the town’s mikvah.
Actual construction began after Pesach 2022. Although the mikvah was unavailable for six days a week during the entire period, it remained open on Friday nights and Yom Tovim throughout, with the exception of the past few weeks. The sparkling new mikvah promises to be both aesthetically and practically pleasing, much roomier than before, with a host of new and enhanced features. Before diving into specifics, a little history is in order.
The Fair Lawn mikvah was built in 1989, a project of Shomrei Torah conceived under the loving guidance of Rabbi Benjamin and Rebbetzin Shevi Yudin and housed on the shul’s premises. Shomrei Torah member Phyllis Gershon initially oversaw its operations, followed by some two decades of guidance by Dossy Brandstatter. Although the process for the most part ran smoothly, with repairs addressed as needed, it became apparent that what arguably may have passed for a state-of-the-art facility over three decades ago was clearly wanting for some time. This led to the creation of the Fair Lawn Mikvah Association (FLMA) in September 2017, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization independent from Shomrei Torah. In effect, it expanded the voices and responsibilities of virtually every Orthodox shul in Fair Lawn.
Headed by Nechama Zofan of Shomrei Torah, the association received a boost when Chaya Birnbaum, relatively new to Fair Lawn, immersed herself in the cause, meeting with area rabbis to voice her concerns and offer both her time and a substantial pledge to get the ball rolling on the necessary upgrade. Birnbaum continues in the role of project manager. By the end of 2020 over $500,000 had been raised for the project thanks to a significant grant by Mikvah USA and a highly successful fundraising campaign.
Fast forward to the present. The FLMA board currently has 10 seats, two women apiece from Ahavat Achim, Anshei Lubavitch, Darchei Noam, Shomrei Torah and the Young Israel of Fair Lawn. Other shuls have periodically been involved and all women are welcome. Each board member volunteers her time, and each shul’s membership has financial responsibilities tied to the mikvah. In the past, Shomrei Torah alone had shouldered the bill. Rabbinical leaders, the Va’ad HaRabbanim, include Rabbis Eli Belizon, Avrohom Bergstein, Jeremy Donath, Andrew Markowitz, Levi Neubort and Ely Shestack. There is an ongoing dialogue between them and board members. Shira Teichman of Young Israel, a board member since 2019, became FLMA president in November 2021.
Teichman spoke with the Jewish Link at length about recent developments. She began by expressing her appreciation at the willingness of the nearby Paramus mikvah leadership to partner with its Fair Lawn counterparts to provide a convenient nightly alternative while renovations took place. While some chose to go elsewhere, nearly 60 women took advantage of that mikvah monthly, with Fair Lawn providing additional staffing help. “This is a mitzvah of such paramount importance. Such a purposeful Mikdash Mi’at,” remarked Teichman.
Teichman shared some of the many enhancements women can look forward to when the new mikvah officially opens. First and foremost, the mikvah’s footprint has increased, with a fourth much larger prep room added to the initial three. That room meets all accessibility codes.
Additionally, in the past prep rooms led directly into the mikvah, which limited privacy. The new design has a greater level of soundproofing and includes a small hallway leading out of each room that will act as a buffer to “provide a whole new level of modesty,” noted Teichman. Music will be available as well “to enhance the spirit of relaxation as well as to embrace the mitzvah.”
Aesthetically, changes are numerous and quite apparent. The vanity and mirrors are larger and there is more space for personal belongings. The tiling is enhanced and there is “gorgeous new lighting.” Even the showerheads have been upgraded. The rooms, which had been pink, perhaps a popular color choice in 1989, are now neutral whites and grays. The mikvah’s pool itself also has a new color, with blue replacing pink. Teichman summed it up by exclaiming, “It’s going to be magnificent — an enormous upgrade.”
Teichman is particularly pleased about the waiting room enhancements, which will provide a fresher, more soothing atmosphere. “It will be so inviting—a safe haven,” she said. “Women shouldn’t have to feel anxious while waiting.” She went on to say that all of this was absolutely necessary because “we are now experiencing a huge level of community growth, and growth necessitates renovation.” She noted that there are over 600 frum families now residing in Fair Lawn.
“We are trying to uphold the ideals of Shevi and Rabbi Yudin,” Teichman said. “This shared communal event will be like welcoming a new sefer Torah. It should be celebrated.”
The Chanukat HaBayit will take place in Shomrei Torah’s Inge and Fredy Heiser Simcha Hall, 19-10 Morlot Ave. It will begin with a formal dessert reception at 7:30 p.m. followed by a program at 8 featuring remarks from community leaders and a video. Maariv and a raffle drawing will follow. Suggested donation is $36 per person.
Robert Isler is a marketing research analyst and freelance writer. He can be reached at [email protected].