By: Pamela Macek
In Judaism, ritual washing is an important part of daily life. For Jewish women, this expression of faith is required to achieve purity in what is called a mikvah, which is a bath specifically created according to Jewish law. The mikvah is a place where women go to, so they may experience a type of spiritual cleansing that reaffirms the cycle of life.
Today, much of American society is clueless on customs like the mikvah. But now there is movement growing in support of these customs right here in New Jersey, all due to the commitment of a group of very dedicated women. Tobah Grossbaum is one of those women. This mother of nine shares about the work of love that has been invested in Mikvah Chana, a facility located in Livingston, that provides these unique baths for the public’s use. Regarding the staff, Grossbaum explained that, “at Mikvah Chana, women spend their time, energy and resources committed to raising awareness and educating people on the importance of the mikvah and to provide for them the opportunity to return to a lifestyle that includes using the mikvah daily.”
This “house of cleansing” was built twelve years ago in loving memory of a woman named Chana Felsen by her children and grandchildren. The purpose and mission were straightforward and simple: carry on the importance of faith and teach it to others by example and through service. Over the years, renovations occur, and Grossbaum shared, “Recently, a ritual bath and bridal room were created, also in memory of a beloved mother.” The motivation to keep the mikvah operating is very strong.
It is not just Jewish Orthodox women who seek out solace at Mikvah Chana. “Women of every type of background are welcome. The initial bathing is free, then there is a nominal monthly fee, which helps support the needed maintenance and daily expenses incurred. The staff are all volunteers, giving their time freely out of conviction to help others understand and experience what participating in the mikvah provides,” explained Grossbaum.
Fund raising is an important part of what keeps Mikvah Chana going. Every year, the Women’s Annual Gala is held, and this year it will take place on May 20th at the Hotel Westminster, 550 West Mount Pleasant Ave., Livingston, N.J. Tickets are available on their website. Tobah was excited as she said, “Over 800 women and high school age girls are expected to attend this inspiring event, with gifts, giveaways and raffles adding a bit of fun to the evening.”
The Gala’s theme is “Ingredients for Success,” and will host two very successful and prominent women from the Jewish community. Melissa Ben-Ishay is a mother as well as accomplished author, entrepreneur and founder of Baked by Melissa, a New York City based business that creates bite-sized cupcakes and treats. Goldie Plotkin, a native New Yorker, is the Co-Director of Chabad of Markham in Thornhill, Ontario and Director of the Torah Tots pre-school. Mrs. Plotkin is a prolific speaker, addressing audiences at faith-based events like the Chabad Annual convention in NYC as well as the Knesset, Israel, where she spoke on matters regarding marriage enrichment. Together, these incredible women, along with Toba Grossbaum and the staff at Mikvah Chana, will bring their enthusiasm and influence to an audience ready to hear their message of strength, joy, faith, beauty, love, family and commitment – ingredients for living a truly successful life.