Congregation Anshe Chesed has done it: After more than a decade of planning, raising funds, and filing paperwork, the Modern Orthodox synagogue in Linden has its own mikva. Those seeking ritual immersion no longer need make the six-mile drive to the ritual baths in Hillside or neighboring Elizabeth.
The May 17 unveiling of the Ziga Roshanski Mikvah was the culmination of a process begun during the tenure of Rabbi Cary Friedman, continued under Rabbi Aryeh Stechler, and brought to completion by the current religious leader, Rabbi Joshua Hess. Even then, there was a delay; the shortage of rain in the preceding weeks meant the first actual immersion in the ritual pool, which requires naturally sourced water, had to be postponed.
The final touch came this past Sunday, June 7, with the opening of the Bernard B. Baron Keilim Mikvah, the pool used for the purification of new household vessels. It was dedicated by the Baron, Hadaya, Loewenstein, and Ozarowski families.
The congregation’s total membership is around 130 family units, most of whom are young. The mikva, in a newly constructed wing of the synagogue building, is part of its drive to attract more observant couples.
Honoring his late father, for whom the mikva is named, Mark Roshanski told the assembled crowd, “From a young age my father taught me that the whole is only as great as the sum of its parts…. This mikva was a true collaborative effort. It is my sincere hope that [it] will be the impetus in creating a stronger, larger, and more vibrant Jewish community in Linden.”
About 175 people attended the ceremony, including Hess’s teacher, Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger, dean of Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Md., and Linden Mayor Derek Armstead and other local leaders.
The mood was emotional, Hess told NJ Jewish News. “It was a celebration,” he said, “but between the honor and respect given to our long-time member Ziga Roshanski, as well as the reality of what we have accomplished at such a young age — and most of us are in our 30s — combined with the 101-year history of the shul, there was a lot to reflect upon.”
And being “the default site manager,” he admitted, “was a combination of fun, frustrating, and overwhelming feelings.”
Hess’s wife Naava and a team of other women served as midwives to the project, seeking to perfect each detail.
Nothing went as planned. As Naava said, “It was like a pregnancy where everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong.” With permits and permission in hand, they finally broke ground in 2013. The construction, expected to take about nine months, took a year longer. It took another three days after the unveiling to reach the required rain water level. With the three-day Shavuot observance coming up, the first appointment was postponed until the following week.
The construction was overseen by the younger Roshanski, working with Hess, mikva committee chair Dr. Dovid Helfgott, and congregation president Sender Gross. Priced at $350,000, the design by Springfield architect Steve Prawer placed the mikva in an extension added to the side of the synagogue. There were some problems with that, given the proximity to the street and a bicycle store, but mikva specialist Rabbi Yirmiyahu Katz of Brooklyn helped resolve them.
“Now that it’s done, it feels unbelievable — a dream come true,” said Naava Hess. “As with a difficult pregnancy, now that we have this beautiful child, all the struggle is forgotten.”
Ritual baths are used monthly by Jewish women observing the laws of “family purity,” men who seek a ritual immersion on customary occasions, and, overseen by rabbis, by individuals undergoing the conversion ceremony.
To book an appointment to use the mikva, call 908-444-6518, or go to firstname.lastname@example.org.