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Chabad Center of Bellmore-Merrick revives age-old Jewish ritual

Community center finishing construction of mikvah

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Jewish families sought refuge in a dusty red landscape during one of the final events of the First Jewish-Roman War: the siege of Masada. From A.D. 73 to 74, they lived in a fortress on a plateau and built all of the necessities of a center for Jewish life — including a mikvah, or ritual bath.

Now, after two years of construction, the Chabad Center for Jewish Life will soon have its own mikvah. Rabbi Shimon Kramer and his wife, Chanie, said they look forward to introducing it to the Bellmore-Merrick community on June 11.

In Jewish tradition, married women immerse themselves in a mikvah at the end of their menstruation to signify spiritual renewal. The structure is so important to Jewish tradition that if a community cannot afford one, it must sell the synagogue and Torah to raise the necessary funds, according to Kramer.

“If families at Masada were able to build [a mikvah] in two years while they were fighting a war…” Kramer said, making it clear that it was only a matter of time before the Chabad Center had its own.

“Every Jewish community should have a mikvah,” Chanie added.

The rabbi noted that construction of the mikvah could not have been completed without the volunteer efforts of dedicated community members. Cindy Knoll, a local resident, helped design the interior, and Marvin Greenberg, another local, donated the necessary electrical supplies, furnished by Michaels Electrical Supply Corporation in Lynbrook.

Outside the community, the national organization Mikvah USA helped supplement funds and gave advice as the project was under way. The final product was named Mikvah Mei Leah, at the request of Rochelle and Melly Lifshitz, two donors who purchased the name to commemorate Lillian Rottenstein, of Lawrence.

The Chabad Center’s mikvah is furnished to resemble a spa, and is equipped with heaters, resting areas, and lavish bathrooms and showers. There is a small basin adjacent to the pool, which will collect “natural” rainwater from pipes that lead to the roof.

One June 11, the Chabad Center will welcome families for a tour of the new mikvah starting at 3:30 p.m., with a ribbon cutting and buffet dinner at 4 p.m. Individuals can still donate to the Chabad Center and dedicate the mikvah to a loved one. More information is available at www.mbmikvah.org.