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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ritual bath is another sign of increased Jewish observance in and around Merrick, N.Y

Cindy Knoll, her husband Lawrence and their three grown children welcomed “Mikvah Mei Leah” when its doors opened at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Merrick, N.Y.

Knoll, who has been involved with the center since its establishment a decade ago, even helped local designer Caroline Wilkes map out various elements of the new amenity. Like other mikvahs built around the world in recent years—from Moscow to Mexico—an emphasis was placed on aesthetics and contemporary features, offering “a spa-like atmosphere where women could relax for the hour they’re there,” Knoll, a resident of Merrick, tells

As such, every detail was attended to, including an intricate mosaic depicting flowers in the mikvah pool room, alongside heated floors.

Knoll has confidence that in addition to serving local residents and visitors it will be a draw for Jewish families considering a move to the Long Island hamlet. “Women wanted to use it right away,” she notes, adding that it’s important “knowing there’s a mikvah in the immediate area.”

While other mikvahs are nearby in West Hempstead, Long Beach and Plainview—about 20 minutes away—the community has long wanted one to call its own. Settled by Puritans in 1643, Merrick’s Jewish population began to grow after World War II, as suburban life and home ownership became increasingly attractive to returning soldiers and their families.

Jeryl Volk, who with her husband, Rabbi Marc Volk, leads the Young Israel of Merrick, explains that for some time now, there has been talk about putting a mikvah in the Merrick-Bellmore-Wantagh suburbs in Nassau County. “Young people today want a mikvah in their community,”she says, “and rightfully so.”

She adds that the Chabad building made sense as a home for the ritual bath because its directors, Rabbi Shimon and Chanie Kramer, led the joint effort for its completion and will oversee its operation.

The project brought people from across the Jewish community together to raise money, she adds, with Mikvah USA, an organization that helps build and rebuild mikvahs around the country, also helping bring the project to fruition.

Named by Mikvah USA donors Melly and Rochelle Lifshitz—in honor of Rochelle’s mother, Lillian (Leah) Rottenstein—the mikvah drew nearly 300 people to the June 11 grand opening, including local legislators.

“Sitting there that Sunday in the heat of the day—it must have been 100 degrees—you couldn’t help but notice the Jewish pride,” stresses Volk, “that we not only have the magnificent mikvah that is now a reality, but how proud we are to consider ourselves a cohesive community.”

Shlomo Siegel, an attorney who has lived in Merrick for 18 years, helped from the onset of the process through his generous support and legal work associated with the mikvah, also dedicating the mikvah lobby in memory of his mother, Sally Siegel. He estimates that Merrick has been trying to build one for 50 years. “Every time they tried to do it, something fell through,” he says.

He was proud to see Jews of all backgrounds working together to increase Yiddishkeit. “It’s a beautiful community,” says Siegel. “And it’s got a lot of potential for growth.”

The growth of Jewish observance in Merrick is being seen throughout the area. It was recently announced that the 50th emissary couple on Long Island, Rabbi Shalom and Rochel Leah Lipszyc, will be serving the Jewish community in northeast Nassau County.

Tours and Classes

The Kramers founded the Chabad center in 2007; a few years later, in December 2011, they purchased a building. Right away, they started working on zoning permits and plans for a mikvah.

Among many other programs and services, they offer a preschool (it’s currently at capacity; expansion is their next project), a food drive (the opening of a food bank is in the works) and a “Circle of Hope”support group for women coping with breast cancer and other illnesses.

“Although Chabad spearheaded the project, it was certainly with the input and support of many others,” the rabbi emphasizes. He spoke at three local synagogues to drum up initial support for the mikvah, he says, and thanked rabbis from the area who attended the opening. The Kramers led tours that day; calls for appointments started coming in that night.

Chanie Kramer has since been busy showing the mikvah to groups and holding classes on family purity. She gives a class every Wednesday on the subject, and says the mikvah is getting busier by the week.

“There are many women who want to see it and learn about it,” she says. “I believe it is so necessary. It will bring this whole community to a new level of Yiddishkeit, and as an added benefit, help enhance people’s marriages.”

By: Karen Schwartz