Sunday, March 07, 2021

(Courtesy of Teaneck Mikvah) We all clearly remember that fateful week in March 2020 when the RCBC courageously decided, based on medical guidance, to close our shuls and our schools, our basic religious institutions. It was a decision of historic proportions that later became the norm for all religious institutions. In doing so, many lives were saved.

Yet in the midst of these unprecedented changes to our communal life, our Teaneck mikvah remained open. And this was no easy feat. After consulting with the rabbonim and medical experts, a plan was put into place to assure that the mikvah staff and the women of our community would remain safe while still being able to fulfill the mitzvah of tevilah. New supplies were ordered and the staff was specially trained in new protocols in both the Florence and Joseph Appleman Building and the Yetta Schechter Mikvah Building on Sterling Place. Usage was shifted to an online, appointment-only system to control the volume of women in the building at one time. A small group of volunteers was trained to call the patrons every night to conduct a pre-screening to make sure that anyone using the mikvah on a given night understood and was compliant with the mikvah standards.

Every night presented new challenges: shailot were asked, medical clarifications were needed and sometimes there was just a need for general reassurance. But always, the goal was to make sure that the women coming to the mikvah felt safe and comfortable and that the mikvah staff who was servicing our community felt safe and comfortable as well.

What achdut! A shocking number of women overcame their initial fears and came to the mikvah. Women from our community thanked the volunteers who were calling them and reaching out with a personal touch and then thanked the mikvah staff for helping them feel safe. Many women sent warm texts and emails to the mikvah office thanking the staff for making this difficult time easier.

And just as the RCBC became the standard-bearer for rabbonim worldwide during the COVID crisis, our Teaneck mikvah set the bar for other community mikvaot. The mikvah was called from far and wide to share their procedures and insights.

Over time, the new COVID reality became a bit easier to navigate and the mikvah went from personal nightly phone calls to online screening. Unfortunately, as the pandemic wears on, more and more women know what to expect. Yet, there are still weekly instances when a personal, individualized approach is necessary and the mikvah staff and leadership are always available to address these situations.

In addition, the keilim mikvah required its own set of guidelines, once again with guidance from the medical experts and rabbonim. Initially, it was closed, and then slowly reopened with a hired “toivler.” This arrangement then transitioned to an appointment-only system. This system is in effect to once again limit the number of patrons using the mikvah at one time. Chassanim and kallahs, as well as those who are new to the neighborhood and have a large number of items to toivel can make longer appointments. The mikvah has also hired additional cleaning staff to enable the keilim mikvah to be routinely cleaned during the recently expanded weekend appointment hours.

“All of these operations take money to run and maintain and the mikvah still needs the community’s financial support. As the usage fees only cover a portion of the mikvah’s annual operating expenses, the event sponsorships, along with the other campaigns and shul assessments, close the gap and allow the mikvah to serve the community,” said Ruchi Tiger, mikvah treasurer.

Usually, the annual women’s event in November is the largest fundraiser for the mikvah. “This event is not just a way to raise much-needed funds for the mikvah but it is also an enjoyable evening out with friends. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we realized that we could not provide an acceptable substitution and with great sadness, we decided to cancel this year’s event,” said Rachel Schechter, annual campaign committee member. The mikvah also hopes to be able to share a special evening with the women of the community some time soon.

However, the campaign committee realized that each woman feels connected to the mikvah and will miss the once-a-year, unifying experience. So, the mikvah decided to offer a memento to those who donate to the annual campaign. “Every woman who donates $100 and above, by year end, will have the choice of the cookbook ‘Dinner Done’ so she can enjoy dinner ‘on us’ in place of dinner at the event or ‘Nishmas: Song of the Soul’ for the inspiration that we typically share at the women’s event,” added Renee Becker, another annual campaign committee member.

Nomi Rotblat, the mikvah’s president, expressed her appreciation to the community: “We are so gratified by the positive feedback we have received over the past months. We are now counting on each member of the community to raise the funds to keep the mikvah servicing the community on a consistent and constant basis, through this challenging time and beyond.”

To donate and sponsor, and be listed on the Scroll of Honor, please visit www.teaneckmikvah.com/event.