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Jewish bath finally opens in Park Slope

Mikvah is the first to open in brownstone nabe

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The first mikvah ever in Park Slope finally opened after more than five years of construction.

The three-story William and Betty Katz Center for Jewish Life, on 15th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, was celebrated with a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, drawing dozens of observant Jews and shutting down the street to traffic for several hours. The project has been controversial with neighbors since its inception.

A mikvah, which literally translates as “pool,” is a Jewish ritual bathhouse and an integral part of the religion, said Rabbi Shimon Hecht, leader of Congregation B’nai Jacob on Ninth Street. He also heads the Chabad of Brownstone Brooklyn, which built the mikvah.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said, adding that building a mikvah even takes precedence over building a house of worship.

The pristine, spa-like, facility is designed for observant Jews to partake in a ritual process of purification and cleansing, in a solitary and ultra private manner, by immersing themselves in specially constructed pools. The new mikvah has baths for men on the first floor and separate baths for women on the lower level. It’s available only by appointment.

“It’s a major component of the Jewish community,” he said. “You need a mikvah because Jewish purity is dependent on a mikvah. You cannot build a family without a mikvah. And if you don’t have a family then you cannot build a community.”

Jewish law, Hecht explained, requires that married women must bathe in a mikvah after their monthly mensuration cycles end in order to regain ritual purity. Until she takes a post-period mikvah, the woman is not permitted to have sex with, or even be with, her husband. According to custom, women typically use the facility in the evening, while men use the bathhouse during the day.

Before the mikvah was completed, the rabbi said Park Slope Jews traveled to other neighborhoods, such as Brooklyn Heights and Crown Heights, to perform the sacred rite at other bathhouses, or couldn’t go because of travel inconvenience.

“We’re hoping that by having our own mikvah, it will increase awareness and the desire for people who want to use the mikvah,” he said.

The bathing complex was built with two rentable apartments where observant Jews from out-of-town can stay if visiting sick relatives at nearby New York Methodist Hospital.

Neighbors still fear that having a bathhouse on a residential block will generate parking and traffic congestion once it becomes fully operational.

“I really hope it doesn’t make it impossible to park,” said Nancy Carpenter, who lives across the street from the facility and says area parking is difficult enough.

But Hecht said that there is no reason to be concerned about parking issues or congestion. He estimates that in a single day only 10 to 12 visitors will likely use the facility because only three people per hour are allowed to use the baths.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.
Updated 10:10 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mo from Park Slope says:
This is excellent news. What an achievement. Thank you Rabbi Shimon Hecht and Chabad for facilitating.
May 6, 2013, 10:39 am
Robert from Park Slope says:
Kudos to Rabbi Hecht for bringing this beautiful project to the neighborhood and for helping to maintain a truly Orthodox Jewish community in the neighborhood despite many obstacles.

May 6, 2013, 3:22 pm
Morric from South Slope says:
Sounds great. Cant wait to see it. Kudos to Chabad of Park Slope and Rabbi Shimon Hecht.
May 8, 2013, 10:56 pm
Tom from Park Slope says:
Gross.
May 15, 2013, 2:38 pm
Iris F from Park Slope says:
Seriously?! As if a bathing ritual makes a life-altering difference to any person's true colors. It's not the rituals one keeps, it's the "works" that are held accountable. Sheer hiprocrisy.
May 20, 2013, 9:44 am
Elisheva from Park slope says:
Tom,
Your ignorance is gross.
Iris,
"Life altering experience to any person's true colors"...? What do you mean by this? Do you know anyone who uses a mikvah? I do. I know a social worker whose job it is to enter homes and remove children who are abused and neglected, and, by the way, while she is there she searches for and rescues animals who are most often worse off than the children.
May 26, 2013, 7:51 pm
Alton Hewitt-Hager from Park Slope says:
Kudos to Hecht for maintaining an Jewish orthodoxy in this neighborhood??!! Hecht has done everything in his power (which is considerable--in a Mafia sort of way) to keep orthodoxy OUT of this neighborhood. He searches for the unaffiliated, reels them in with free food and events for their children, tells them they're tzaddikim,
gets them to maintain the 9th St. synogogue (that he'll claim belongs to him but was paid for by the congregants) and then-- here's the best part--as soon as those congregants (or anyone who is already orthodox but not Chabad) start questioning his practices or wanting more Torah, Hecht gets rid of them. Last year, he managed to push out five shomer shabbat families--people who not only practice the laws of family purity, but also keep kosher homes and send their children to yeshiva. Look at his congregation now--the only people there who will be using th mikvah are his family members. Also, Hecht continues to remark that building a mikvah takes precedence over building a house of worship, yet he has spent the last dozen years building a synogogue (and destroying a congregation). Why is that?
May 27, 2013, 3:04 pm
Tom from Park Slope says:
Elisheva,

"In a single day only 10 to 12 visitors will likely use the facility because only three people per hour are allowed to use the baths". Seriously, do you think this will be clean and hygienic? Additionally, "Jewish law, Hecht explained, requires that married women must bathe in a mikvah after their monthly mensuration cycles end in order to regain ritual purity". How can you do this to women? It is disgusting and degrading. Shame on you.
June 22, 2013, 9:06 pm
unshuldik from slope says:
Alton Hewitt-Hager has it correct. (Kudos)!

What was a thriving community is now virtually gone!

At least there are 2 brick & mortar buildings to admire.

Truly a sad story. Politics and dismantling of a shul.

Jewish community hope and promise gone totally awry.

Sadly all sides loose in this botched affair.

It must be especially sad (for a Board/Rabbi) to see a

congregation poof and vanish after many years of

committed work on the "behalf" of the community;

albeit misdirected and misguided at times.

Apparently this has been a hallmark of this place.

Every few years there is a cleansing. Just look at the history

of this organization in the Slope and its effusive nature.

Let the Jumbo Menorah Shine on!
July 11, 2013, 4:06 pm
elisheva from Park slope says:
I'll say it again, Tom--your ignorance is gross. Do some home work.
July 24, 2013, 6:50 pm
Alton Hewitt Hager from ParkSlope says:
Unshuldik,

Believe me, there was no sadness on the part of this "rabbi". Ridding the shul of potential trouble makers (ie anyone with a background/knowledge of Judaism) is ALWAYS his objective. First, of course, he gets whatever he can out of them in terms of money and work, then he ousts them in the ugliest of manners. This particular Jumbo Menorah casts dirty light on those that truly shine for Hashem.
July 26, 2013, 7:07 pm
Tom from Park Slope says:
Elisheva,

Can you make an intelligent statement or just insult people?
July 26, 2013, 7:43 pm
Elisheva from Park Slope says:
Really, Tom? Really!? Let me remind you that you began this thread with the single word, gross. You then used the words "degrading" and "disgusting" and, predictably, the ever popular insult of the self rightous--"shame on you". Tell me, what is it I should be ashamed of, for practicing a religious ritual that has been in existence since the first century? Or, perhaps, for honoring my Sephardic ancestors who practiced the same ritual in secret and in fear--have you heard of the Inquisition? Maybe I should just be ashamed of responding to a person who simply needs to press a button to find out about mikvah hygiene and the laws of Niddah (they apply to men as well). Why don't you do that, Tom? Why don't you learn more about it before YOU insult ME!
July 28, 2013, 2:47 pm
Sara L from Park Slope says:
..The shul members who gave all their $$ for this Mikvah were SHOCKED to find out the money was taken under false pretenses to build a mikvah supervised and OWNED by CHABAD. This Rabbi and Rebbetzin harass observant/knowledgeable members, in order to make sure they leave after they have been drained of whatever time and money they have invested....why do you suppose all but two board members resigned after being brought up on falsified charges to appear before e Beit Din which the Rabbi's Uncle headed?..Tom you are ignorant in the extreme..Thank you Elisheva for presenting these facts..
Sept. 24, 2013, 5:26 pm
Tikra Lee Namir from Park slope says:
Oh no! I recently moved to the neighbothood and was so excited that there is a Modern Orthodox minyan and a mikvah, but I have heard nothing but cryptic warnings about this Chabad family that runs the latter. I'd rather schlep to another part of brooklyn every month than support any person or organization that hurts and takes advantage of other Jews--especially when that person/organization is cloaked in rabbi garb.
Thank you Alton and Sara
Oct. 4, 2013, 5:17 pm

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