June 23, 2024
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Fair Lawn Mikvah Renovation Approved

The women of Fair Lawn have a lot to celebrate this week. The Fair Lawn Mikvah received the necessary permits to move forward with a major renovation and beautification of the current mikvah. This will be the first major renovation of the space since the mikvah opened its doors in 1989.

Thanks to the growth of Fair Lawn, more women wanting to observe the laws of taharat hamishpacha (family purity), younger families moving into the community, and the fact that it’s been 32 years, the time has come to renovate the mikvah. The new space will feature four spacious preparation rooms, a re-tiled mikvah, and a renovated keilim (dishes) mikvah.

“I’m really amazed at how so many women in the community want to get involved,” said Rizi Harris, the new president of the Fair Lawn Mikvah Association. “We have seven different shuls who make up the Fair Lawn Mikvah Association, and everyone wants to be a part of it. I find that very special. At the end of the day, this is going to be the mikvah that they go to.”

According to Nehama Zofan, outgoing president of the Fair Lawn Mikvah Association, “The original mikvah was a vision of Rabbi Benjamin and Shevi Yudin, long-time rabbi and rebbetzin of Congregation Shomrei Torah. It was built behind Shomrei Torah but was for all the women of the community.” In 2018 the mikvah went from being just a Shomrei Torah mikvah to a community-owned asset and service. Ahavat Achim, Bris Avrohom, Chabad-Anshei Lubavitch, Darchei Noam, the Sephardic Center, Shomrei Torah, and the Young Israel all make up the Fair Lawn Mikvah Association. “In fact, the board is made up exclusively of women—very motivated women who take responsibility and ownership of the mikvah,” Zofan continued.

Rabbi Andrew Markowitz has lived in Fair Lawn for the last 10 years, first as the assistant rabbi at Shomrei Torah and now as the rabbi. “It’s been heartwarming to watch the Fair Lawn Jewish community grow both physically and spiritually over the last decade. And it’s that growth that has brought us to a point that it’s time to renovate and expand the mikvah.

“The mikvah renovation is an opportunity for all the shuls to collaborate, both the Mikvah Association members and the rabbis. Everyone is working together toward the same goal—beautifying and sanctifying the Fair Lawn Mikvah.” Rabbi Markowitz serves as liaison between the renovation committee and the local rabbis. The rabbis discuss halachic issues as they come up.

Chaya Birnbaum, project manager and designer, told The Jewish Link that they have engaged Mr. Aron Breuer of Construction with Care, Inc., as the general contractor of the renovation. Breuer has experience building and renovating mikvahs and is well aware of what’s involved and how to ensure the property is safe for the women who will be using the mikvah in the evenings after the workers leave. Once construction begins, the mikvah will remain open on Friday nights, but weekday use will be limited. Breuer is trying to limit the amount of time the mikvah will be inaccessible. Birnbaum shared, “No matter what I ask of Mr. Breuer, his philosophy is, ‘There’s never a problem, only a solution.’” The hope is that the construction will take no more than six months.

Last December, the Fair Lawn Mikvah Association held a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for the project. Thanks to matching donors and funding from Mikvah USA, a 501 c3 organization that helps mikvahs financially for both building and renovating, they not only met their fund-raising goal of $350,000, but exceeded it. However, they are still accepting donations, as there are always unexpected costs, and the hope is to build another free-standing mikvah at some point. “The community has grown and is no longer in one location, so another mikvah would be helpful, particularly for Friday nights,” said Harris.

The current mikvah has three preparation rooms (including one wheelchair-accessible room) and one mikvah. The renovation will take the existing space and reconfigure it into four preparation rooms and a re-tiled, refurbished mikvah. One of the preparation rooms will be slightly larger and will be wheelchair accessible and also available to kallahs. The keilim mikvah will be renovated as well and remain in the same location.

“The response to the project has been tremendously positive. Over the years, dedicated volunteers (men and women) have helped maintain the mikvah. Recently, people’s willingness to help out, both financially and in other ways, has been beautiful to watch. This truly is a community project,” reiterated Harris.

“We didn’t know what to expect when we opened up the fundraiser in December,” said Rabbi Markowitz. “The response was overwhelming in a very beautiful way. The women are working very hard to make sure the renovation will all be done well in a halachic hiddur mitzvah (beautification of the mitzvah) fashion, with kedusha (holiness) in mind every step of the way. It’s exciting to be a part of it.”

To donate to the Fair Lawn Mikvah, visit www.fairlawnmikvah.org  and click on donate.

By Sara Kosowsky Gross

 

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