“Gishmei Bracha” has rarely had the depth of meaning as in recent weeks for the community of Linden as they prepared for the dedication of their new mikvah. Having endured a winter of historically high snowfall followed by an April and May of historically low rainfall, the community stood, with bated breath, waiting for the heavens to open up and fill the retaining cisterns for the mikvah. In a beautifully orchestrated dedication event this past Sunday, the leadership and community of Congregation Anshe Chesed celebrated the culmination of five years of planning with a ceremony recognizing the exhilarating completion of this contemporarily elegant facility.
The dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony comes two years after the ground-breaking launched with a $180K budget, ballooning along the way to half a million, and concluding with this stunning and ultimate edifice of prominence in the spiritual life of every Orthodox Jewish family. The mikvah was lovingly dedicated by the Roshanski family in memory of Ziga Roshanski, and graciously represented by his son Mark. Mark spoke passionately about the influence of his father, inculcating in him many essential positive principles, such as the “power in numbers in any vital effort, and that the whole is really the sum of its parts.” He emphasized that from the beginning through the completion of the mikvah, he learned the genuine meaning of “it takes an army.”
The event was emcee’d by the mikvah co-chair, Dr. Dovid Helfgott, who compared this event fittingly to the events of Yom Yerushalyim 48 years ago, when the heart of Klal Yisrael was reunited with its people following a long and painful separation. Dovid described the observance of Taharat Hamishpacha, as enabled by the mikvah, in fulfilling a similar role for Jewish husbands and wives. Sender Gross, president of Congregation Anshe Chesed, spoke with tearful emotion, highlighting the one-hundred year-history of the congregation and expressing appreciation to all who assisted and/or donated funds for the project. He noted also with great relief and humor the ongoing challenge of the lack of rainwater until this week—finally filling the cisterns to “within two inches” of the required amount of water that could then be supplemented and treated—necessary to begin the process of filling the mikvah for its intended holy purpose.
Norma Fuerst-Allen, past president of both the Congregation and of the Sisterhood, reminded everyone of the legendary earlier tzidkaniyos (righteous women) who worked in the mikvah locations nearby, assisting women and families during times of different perspectives and fewer resources. She expressed the gratitude shared by all as Linden moves the community into the 21st century with this modern and beautiful facility.
Rabbi Baruch Cywiak addressed the congregation, representing Mikvah USA, which also played a major role in helping to raise funds for Linden’s new Roshanski Mikvah. He related a moving story about meeting Mrs. Frank, who was having surgery soon, and her son. She wished to make a sizeable donation to Mikvah USA as a zechus for her successful surgery and recovery. Three weeks later, and sadly, he found himself instead at her shiva home. He was greeted by Mrs. Frank’s son with the following remark (made in Yiddish), “She grabbed her moment while she had it”, and thus created a gateway for herself and her future through the eternal portal of Taharat Hamishpacha.
The congregation was graced by the presence of Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger, president of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, to deliver divrei bracha. Rabbi Neuberger described the mikvah as the connection of water that flows from the “source,” representing our connection to the source of kedusha that sustains us through water.
He emphasized that those who contribute in any way to make such an essential mitzvah possible for others will have an ongoing and eternal zechus for the kedusha created, as well as all of the future mitzvot that emanate forever from those who will use the mikvah. This chain of mitzvot establishes a blueprint for the future of the congregation and for the community.
Rebbetzin Naava Hess and Mrs. Atara Gross, the current “First Lady” of Anshe Chesed, made a few brief remarks, calling into memory the resolve and personal sacrifice of past generations of dedicated women throughout the world to uphold this special mitzvah regardless of the obstacles and difficulty.
Rabbi Joshua Hess concluded by describing the humble presence of Ziga Roshanski and how he would sit quietly at the back of the sanctuary, always with a smile on his face. He then related a story about a visit he made to a secular kibbutz, describing this incident as one of the holiest experiences of his life. About to depart the kibbutz after spending Shabbos there, he noticed a group of children heading towards the Beit Knesset. They begged him to help them prepare for the holiday of Shavuot by teaching them about the Sefer Torah. Opening a Torah scroll, he gave a brief explanation and then led the children in singing and dancing around the Sefer Torah, after which they all ran to kiss and hug the Torah. Rabbi Hess was deeply moved by this event and went on to explain, as Naava’s great-great-great-grandfather, the Zidichover Rebbe, expounds regarding the Zidichov tradition: “Yisrael is the mikvah of Hashem.”
The concluding ceremony of the day was the bracha and affixing of the mezuzah by Rabbi Hess, assisted by donor Joe Steinberg, owner of Infinity Classics in Linden, and community member Jerry Altzman, at the external entrance of the mikvah.
The dedication was attended by Linden Mayor Derek Armstead, who greatly values his close relationship and lengthy family history with the Jewish community in Linden. The mayor’s grandparents resided above the first butcher shop in Linden. He stated regarding the mikvah dedication that “this special kind of addition to the Linden Jewish community also impacts the community at large in a positive way, and builds continuity in Linden.” Chris Hudak, Freeholder commissioner in Union County, was also in attendance. “I am happy to be here to take part with such a vibrant community that has tremendous leadership in Linden.” The event was also attended by Armand Medina, 9th ward councilman.
By Ellie Wolf