Hurricane Sandy flooded Oceanside with a six-foot wall of water that swept through the neighborhood. The devastation was enormous; 97% of the Jewish-owned homes in Oceanside sustained serious damage. Oceanside’s mikvah was destroyed, and had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The destruction was especially painful because just four years ago, the community—in conjunction with Mikvah USA—had renovated and modernized their mikvah.
The Mikvah Association of Oceanside reached out to Mikvah USA and was reassured to hear its message: “Go ahead and rebuild it. This is not in our budget and we have no idea how we will raise the money. But we will be there for you.”
Help came from all over. A devoted community member and real estate developer, David Welner, donated months of his time and skills in order to rebuild Oceanside’s shul and mikvah. The Orthodox Union granted Mikvah USA an extraordinarily generous sum from their Sandy Relief Fund. And in an inspirational act of mesirus nefesh, Rabbi Lipa Geldwerth, shlita, rav of K’hal Kol Torah in Flatbush, dedicated the bor tevillah l’iluy nishmas his wife Rebbetzin Brana bas R’ Baruch Hakohen, a’h.
On Sunday, December 15, the Jewish community in Oceanside celebrated the grand opening of its fully rebuilt mikvah. The winter cold couldn’t dispel the warmth, unity, and communal joy that overtook the assembled at this momentous and long-awaited chanukas habayis. Those attending warmly received the words of Mikvah Association President Helene Schiffmiller, who, along with Sondra Gottesman, has been at the forefront of the daily functioning of the mikvah in Oceanside from its onset back in 1984.
Mr. Dave Welner described how they built the mikvah beautifully so that “users could leave with a meaningful and positive experience.” Rabbi Jonathan Muskat, rav of Young Israel of Oceanside, reviewed the halachot regarding the construction of a mikvah and noted the ingenuity utilized in filling the boros in accordance with halachah so that the mikvah would be operational in a short time.
Mr. Manny Adler, chair of the synagogue and community services commission of the Orthodox Union, then addressed the crowd. He noted that Oceanside had triumphed over the waters’ destruction by using the waters of mikvah to rebuild. Mr. Adler then spoke of the Orthodox Union’s many programs, all of which benefit Klal Yisrael and help to stem the moral destruction which is so rampant today.
Rabbi Baruch Cywiak, director of special projects at Mikvah USA, thanked Manny Adler and the OU for their crucial support in the aftermath of the hurricane. He related to the crowd how Rabbi Elya Brudny, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, had graciously dedicated a bor during the mikvah’s first reconstruction in 2009. At that time, Rabbi Brudny dedicated the bor l’iluy nishmas his Rebbetzin, Rebbetzin Pesha Gila bas Harav Nachum Zev Brudny, a’h. Rabbi Cywiak noted that the unification of Rebbetzins Brudny and Geldwerth, a’h, with yblt’v the Oceanside community in building the mikvah, clearly demonstrates how this mitzvah is bound with Klal Yisrael’s destiny.
Rabbi Brudny, shlita, eloquently explained why he had chosen this mitzvah as a zechus for his revered Rebbetzin. “The Shechinah rests amongst us,” said Rabbi Brudny, “and therefore everything in our lives must begin with taharah. When Rabbi Cywiak told me about a community where mikvah use would grow if there was a nice mikvah, I grabbed the opportunity.”
With the completion of this noble undertaking, Oceanside has been granted a lifetime of opportunity. Mikvah USA, the OU, and all of Klal Yisrael rejoice with every community that merits these opportunities for kedushah. v