March 2, 2024
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Mikvah Opens at Englewood’s Ahavath Torah

Careena Parker, left, project coordinator, with Dr. Medinah Popper (c) and Gayle Lewis, who are finishing their term as co-presidents of the Mikvah Association (Credit: Bracha Schwartz)

Careena Parker, project director, puts up a mezuzah at the newly opened Englewood mikvah. (Credit: Bracha Schwartz)

A print with the blessing for mikvah in the hall gallery (Credit: Bracha Schwartz)

Mikvah pool with stone backsplash and bracha (Credit: Bracha Schwartz)

Located at the rear of Congregation Ahavath Torah, the Rebbetzin Peggy Gopin Weiss Mikvah has seven beautifully appointed changing rooms, two pools, a beauty bar with hairdryers and supplies, and a high-tech communication system that lets the mikvah attendant know when rooms are available and when they need to be cleaned. Appointments can be made online at www.englewoodmikvah.org. Walk-ins will be taken. A new administrator, Wendy Levites, has been appointed to keep the mikvah running smoothly, and several attendants have been added.

Careena Parker, project coordinator, said the décor and design of the mikvah space are meant to inspire calm and tranquility. “It’s soothing here; you can leave the troubles and clutter of the outside world behind you and focus on spirituality.” While the quality of the materials is top of the line, the Mikvah Association took care not to make the space unnecessarily luxurious. “We didn’t want to be extravagant with community money,” said Dr. Medinah Popper, who is stepping down as president after more than 20 years. She credited interior designer Daphna Brainson for helping to create the right look for the space.

The two mikvah pools each have a tile backsplash that shimmers, as though water was dripping down into them. The corridor leading to the changing rooms is decorated with a gallery of exquisite wood cut prints that pay homage to women and depict the beauty of mitzvot and tefillah, from the book “In Her Voice: An Illuminated Book of Prayers for Jewish Women,” by Enya Tamar Keshet. Each design has the text of a prayer for a momentous occasion. Three are for women’s mitzvot specifically: mikvah, challah and candlelighting. The prayer by a bride faces the deluxe room for kallot—and any woman who wants the experience of a spa-grade bubble jet tub.

The mikvah will be available for men on Erev Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The keilim mikvah, accessible through the main entrance of Ahavath Torah, is open during synagogue hours, and with a key on Sunday until noon.

The need for a mikvah to replace the one at Congregation Shomrei Emunah was first recognized in 1999. The Mikvah Association initially planned to build a free-standing facility until Ahavath Torah offered space in the new building it was constructing. After a series of stops and starts, changes in architects and construction plans, the new mikvah began taking shape.

Unforeseen obstacles throughout construction delayed completion of the mikvah. Last year, construction accelerated when the Balk family of Englewood made an additional generous donation to name the mikvah in memory of Mrs. Ariella Balk’s mother Rebbetzin Peggy Gopin Weiss. Rebbetzin Weiss was a regional director of NCSY in Brockton, Massachusetts, and inspired the teenagers she worked with, and often their parents, to become observant Jews. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Weiss moved to Teaneck where they became members of Congregation Beth Aaron. Her son-in-law, Mendel Balk, a”h, who passed away in January, was a champion of the mikvah and contributed many hours of negotiation and planning as well as financial resources to its construction.

Two new presidents are taking the reins from Dr. Medinah Popper and Gayle Lewis. Leslie Kanner has been on the board and involved for 18 years. When Dr. Popper announced that she wanted to step down when the new mikvah opened, Kanner agreed to be co-president. “Aliza and I are excited to take on this responsibility as we help guide the Englewood Mikvah into its next phase,” Kanner said. I am very proud of what an accomplishment this is for our community and the collaborative effort it took to achieve it.”

 Co-president Aliza Solomon learned about plans for the new mikvah when she and her family moved to Englewood eight years ago. She has been on the board for two years and has been involved since the mikvah was just raw space. Dr. Solomon said she has always accepted leadership roles when asked, and has made an effort to give back to her community. As co-president, she wants to reinforce the importance of mikvah and encourage women from the area—not just from Englewood—to come. “I saw how much work and love went into it,” she said. “Now our job is to make it thrive.”

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