April 13, 2024
Close this search box.
Close this search box.
April 13, 2024
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

After Decades, South Teaneck To Get Friday Night Mikvah

Teaneck—One in five women who use the Teaneck Mikvah live south of Route 4. Almost all of them have faced difficult choices when a Friday night mikvah visit is required. They have either had to walk as many as three miles in variable weather, in the dark, sometimes alone, or wait until Saturday night, a decision that can be halachically problematic. Some women have even faced such difficulties with the walking distance that they asked for a heter (rabbinic allowance), to go to the mikvah before sundown on Friday, which has been agreed to by rabbeim only infrequently and on a case-by-case basis.

Several women who wished to speak anonymously described dreading visits they would have to make to the mikvah on Friday nights, turning an otherwise beautiful experience into something less than ideal. Walking home in the dark along Palisade Avenue or Queen Anne Road, they described large patches of darkness, where there are little or no street lights, spurring safety concerns. Walking groups (as well as light-reflector sashes) were often encouraged by mikvah staff, who often attempted to modestly connect others who might be walking south, back to the Beth Aaron neighborhood, Teaneck Road, and beyond.

Now, however, a Friday night mikvah, built entirely under the auspices of the Teaneck Mikvah Association, nears final completion in southern Teaneck, across from the Jewish Center of Teaneck, at 87 Sterling Place. The mikvah’s presence in a central location in southern Teaneck seeks to bridge the difficulties of the Friday night or yom tov walk that has affected 20% of Teaneck’s community for decades.

“We are incredibly thrilled that the community has rallied behind this project,” said Rabbi Laurence Rothwachs, mara d’asra of Congregation Beth Aaron. “The new satellite mikvah will allow for increased observance of this great mitzvah, and promote more shalom bayis and oneg shabbos within the community,” he said.

“As the southernmost shul in Teaneck, we are tremendously grateful to everyone who worked so hard to make this a reality,” said Rabbi Daniel Feldman, spiritual leader of Congregation Ohr Saadya, which is located near Holy Name Hospital and Care One. “Especially now, during these cold winter months, when we are reminded just how difficult the long Friday night walks can be, we are gratified that there will be a new opportunity for the mitzvah to be performed in an optimal fashion. The construction of this mikvah was a wonderful example of communal cooperation and initiative and it is very exciting,” Feldman said.

An active group had been discussing the project since the late 1990s, first led by Rabbi Ephraim Kanarfogel when he was rabbi at Congregation Beth Aaron until 2003, and continuing throughout the past decade, led by Rabbi Rothwachs.

There have been many problematic situations that have arisen because of the walking distance required to and from the Windsor Road mikvah, said Rothwachs. “Occasionally, there may be real challenges in having to walk a far distance to and from the mikvah. Unfortunately, at times, women choose to delay their tevilah (immersion) until Motzei Shabbos, which at best is less than ideal, and at worst, creates new challenges,” he said. “Additionally, there is an impression that many have that if you just ask the question in the right way, accommodations can be made to permit a woman to go to the mikvah on Friday afternoon. In reality however, there are significant halachic issues with this as well,” he said.

Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger, spiritual leader for Bergenfield’s Congregation Beth Abraham, who also works closely as a posek (rabbinic decision maker) for the Teaneck Mikvah Association, agreed with Rothwachs’ characterization that visiting the mikvah before sundown on Friday, “is only granted in unusual circumstances; not for frivolous reasons,” Neuburger said. “The leniency we have been working with was developed by Rav Moshe Feinstein, z”tl, and different rabbis have a different standards of when they would apply it, taking into consideration each woman’s individual fertility situation or general health issues,” he said.

“Rabbi Rothwachs has been and will continue in his role as posek for the Sterling Place mikvah as it opens,” said Menachem Schechter, a board member of the Young Israel of Teaneck who spent the past three years leading the effort to raise over $450,000 of the $500,000 required to build the mikvah. “The project was a collaborative effort over a decade by me, Rachel Schechter, Rochelle Mandelbaum, and Yair and Adeena Mayerfeld, along with Rabbi Rothwachs and Rabbi Pinchas Weinberger (of the Young Israel of Teaneck),” said Schechter.

Adeena Mayerfeld, a Teaneck Mikvah Association board member, described as part of their research process tours of numerous Friday night mikvahs that currently operate in the Monsey, NY region, noting that each Friday night mikvah was situated approximately two miles apart, so most women would not have a difficult walk.

The fundraising for the Friday night mikvah began in earnest as the Teaneck Mikvah Association was completing the larger update of the main mikvah on Windsor Road, in 2010 and 2011. The facility opened in stages, but by May 2011, the Teaneck Mikvah’s 18 state-of-the-art preparation rooms; four mikvahs, one which includes a special-needs lift; a kallah preparation facility, and a separate keylim mikvah, were fully operational.

At the same time, at the height of the recession, when property prices were lower, Schechter began going shul to shul in the southern Teaneck neighborhoods on Shabbos morning, speaking about the mikvah, and asking people to pledge to make the Friday night satellite mikvah a reality.

“It was always our goal that whatever we did, it would be part of the Mikvah Association of Teaneck,” said Schechter, whose wife, Rachel, is incidentally a board member of the Teaneck Mikvah Association. He cited the fact that the central reason the Friday night mikvah took so long to build was that the Windsor Road mikvah was also in such need of an update that there just wasn’t enough bandwidth or will in the community to build the Friday night mikvah at the same time.

“Working with the Mikvah Association to make it a reality was very important to me,” said Schechter. “Mikvahs are the kind of thing that are unifying for the community, and Teaneck as a whole is a communal place,” he said.

The Teaneck Mikvah Association, a community-wide organization, has at its meetings representatives of all the shuls in town, so that everyone’s needs are represented, said Miriam Greenspan, the association’s president. She said the women from the south side of town were talking about the need for a Friday night mikvah even before discussions over the expansion of the Windsor Road mikvah ever began. “We made them a promise that when we were finished with the expansion, we would start on the Friday night mikvah project, and that is what we did,” she said. “One of the things we realized when we were trying to come up with policies for the new mikvah was that the women on the south side of town needed a refresher course on the parameters for Friday night mikvah visits, which we did with Rabbi Rothwachs on a recent Sunday night,” Greenspan said.

The property itself, which at 87 Sterling Place faces the main entrance to the Jewish Center of Teaneck’s sanctuary, was previously owned by the shul and was used as a parsonage for their permanent chazzan. When the shul no longer had a chazzan who required housing, they decided to sell.

“It also was ideal because the Jewish Center was accommodating in terms of allowing us to sign a contract that was contingent on zoning approval. The Mikvah Association didn’t have to lay out any money or be ‘on the hook’ in case we didn’t get approval with the site,” Schechter said.

“We effectively gutted the first floor of the house, which is built in the Cape Cod style, and put in a series of preparation rooms. The preparation rooms are ‘appropriately nice,’ befitting the mitzvah, but not overly so,” said Schechter. The mikvah and the bohr (collecting pit for rainwater) are located in what used to be the attached garage, because a basement cannot exist underneath a mikvah according to halacha,” Schechter said. The contracting work was done by Eli Kolb.

The best part of the new mikvah is its location. “It’s really centrally located between all the shuls on this side of Route 4: Congregation Beth Aaron, Young Israel of Teaneck, Arzei Darom, Ohr Saadya, Netivot Shalom, Chabad, Shaarei Tefillah and of course, the Jewish Center. Over 600 families are represented in those shuls, and it’s essentially equidistant.”

The mikvah is set to open early next month for Friday night and yom tov immersions.

The Teaneck Mikvah Association is seeking to raise approximately $50,000 to finish the Friday Night Mikvah. Checks can be made out the Teaneck Mikvah Association, earmarked for the Friday Night/Yuntif Mikvah, and mailed to 1726 Windsor Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666. Interested parties are also invited to contact Menachem Schechter at maschechter_yahoo.com.

By Elizabeth Kratz

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles