May 21, 2024
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New Englewood Mikvah to Be Named for Rebbetzin Peggy Gopin Weiss

After several starts and stops, a new Englewood mikvah is under construction with an anticipated June completion date, and will be named in memory of Rebbetzin Peggy Gopin Weiss by her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Mendel Balk of Englewood.

“For many years, Mendel Balk has done everything possible to accelerate the completion of the mikvah; he has helped so much with the negotiations and planning. He was already one of our biggest donors and when his mother-in-law passed away, he stepped forward to name the mikvah in her memory,” said Gayle Lewis, who with Medinah Popper, is a co-president of the Englewood Mikvah Association.

Mrs. Balk shared reflections of her mother’s life and her influence on the Jewish community with JLNJ. She told us how Peggy Gopin married Rabbi Saul Weiss at age 19 and devoted her life to kiruv work. She was a Regional Director of NCSY in Brockton, Massachusetts, and inspired teenagers, and many of their parents, to become observant Jews. Mrs. Balk wrote, “Her children and grandchild knew her devotion and priority for Torah and mitzvos, and she was most proud of their Torah-life accomplishments, learning and tzedakah.” Rabbi and Rebbetzin Weiss moved to Teaneck, joining the Beth Aaron Synagogue. Rebbetzin Weiss is survived by her husband, four children, 23 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Rabbi Zev Reichman of Englewood’s East Hill synagogue, where the Balks are members, said, “It is very moving that the mikvah will carry the name of Rebbetzin Weiss. The purity of Jewish families will be in her zechus. Mikvah means coming together of water. This mikvah is the coming together of the entire community and will bring a lot of blessings to the entire community.”

The Rebbetzin Peggy Gopin Weiss Mikvah is being built at Congregation Ahavath Torah and will replace one now in use at Congregation Shomrei Emunah, built when the shul opened in 1989. Rabbi Menachem Genack, Rav of Shomrei Emunah, said “Taharas HaMishpacha is a basic tenet of our religion. The Halacha is to build a mikvah before a shul. So when we decided to build Shomrei Emunah, we built the mikvah. It was intended as just a Shabbos mikvah for women in Englewood who would mainly use the one in Teaneck, but once it was built it was used all the time – Shabbos and throughout the week. With the new mikvah, which will be very beautiful, usage will continue to increase.” When the new mikvah opens, Shomrei Emunah will take back the space.

Mrs. Careena Parker, Coordinator of the project for the Englewood Mikvah Association, said “We went to a lot of mikvahs to do research. We are putting in amenities for people’s comfort, like underfloor radiant heating to supplement forced air heating.”

There will be two mikvah pools in use. A third mikvah, for immersing keylim (cooking utensils), will be accessible from the main shul hallway whenever the building is open. The mikvah for women has a separate landscaped and private entrance from the outside only. The mikvah will be open to men on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Torah, said “The community should recognize the wisdom of the synagogue that it dedicated space in the building for the mikvah at the time of construction, even though it was not in the original plan. It is a major step forward for our community to have a mikvah of this size and character. I am grateful to our lay leadership, the leadership of the Mikvah Association who are continuing to run it, and to Shomrei Emunah for housing the mikvah until now.”

Mrs. Popper, who has overseen the mikvah since it was built, said planning for the new mikvah began in 1999, when the Association realized that it needed renovation in the short term, and replacement as a longer term goal. Mrs. Parker, who had recently moved to Englewood, joined the board and took a leading role in the planning. “I knew what mikvahs were like in other areas, and felt that women here didn’t realize what a mikvah can and should look like, and what a woman’s expectations should be for how it should make her feel; there was no spirituality,” she said. The mikvah was renovated in 2002 and the board began identifying possible locations for a new facility.

The board wanted to build a free-standing mikvah but the president of Ahavath Torah made them an offer they couldn’t refuse – free space in the new synagogue building under construction. As an independent entity, not affiliated with Ahavath Torah or any synagogue, the Mikvah Association negotiated a contract stipulating that it would assume the cost of building the mikvah in the gifted space and be responsible for its operation. A new building fund was initiated by a series of successful parlor meetings.

During construction, Ahavath Torah held services in a temporary structure set up in the parking lot. The shul urged the contractor to have the building ready for the next year’s High Holiday services. That could only happen, they were told, if the Sephardic Center and the Mikvah were not included. The mikvah was put on hold.

In 2010, the mikvah was revived with a new architect and new plans. Mrs. Parker said the rebirth of the mikvah had to be accomplished almost from scratch. “It was incredible and unexpected to realize how complicated the construction would be, largely because it is in a basement and some of the mechanics must be coordinated with what already exists in the synagogue building.” The redrawn architectural plans were done by Ed Easse, and the contractor is Brad Campoli of J. Campoli and Sons, Inc.

Rabbi Isaac Trieger, a world-renowned authority on mikvaot, who also consulted on the Teaneck mikvah, is involved in all construction decisions. Rabbi Trieger recently was on site to inspect the borot (pits), one for rain water and one for city water, and he will be there when the concrete is poured. While the construction is expected to be completed in June, the actual opening date is up to Mother Nature; she has to provide the rain.

The budget for the construction and operation of the mikvah is $1.7 million and is nearing its goal. Mrs. Popper says they have a “nice momentum,” going forward with the naming of the mikvah for Rebbetzin Weiss. “We didn’t begin this second round of fund-raising until October of 2014 when active building was visible. We wanted people to see, watch and hear activity.”

The Mikvah Association welcomes donations of any size. For more information, contact: [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected].

By Bracha Schwartz

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