Area residents watch as a house on South Green Road in University Heights is demolished to make way for a new mikvah.

About 75 men, women and children endured 90-plus degree temperatures for a one-hour groundbreaking ceremony June 17 for the new Cleveland Community Mikvah. 

The groundbreaking at 2588 S. Green Road in University Heights involved demolishing a house to make way for it. 

Rabbi Naphtali Burnstein, senior rabbi of Young Israel of Greater Cleveland in Beachwood, called building the mikvah a most significant achievement – more important than building schools and shuls, he said. 

“Everyone in the community has an obligation to be involved in the building of a mikvah. ... That obligation takes priority over every other obligation,” he said. “The Jewish home is what makes us what we’re all about, and therefore a mikvah is really what allows us to be able to create the Jewish home.”

A mikvah is a ritual pool of water used for physical and spiritual purification. The 5,800 square-foot new mikvah will be solely for women. 

Burnstein also paid tribute to those who helped raise $2.5 million for the facility to date. 

“The fact that we all come together and that we’re able to build the mikvah together is an unbelievable opportunity and experience for our community,” he said.

The mikvah is needed due to the growing local Orthodox community. It will have 14 preparation rooms and two mikvah pools built to the highest halachic or Jewish law standards. It also will have accommodations for those who are physically challenged, and will provide ample parking, security and lighting, according to the building campaign’s brochure.

Burnstein also noted the absence of Robert “Mendy” Klein, the Beachwood businessman and philanthropist who died May 3 at age 65.

“Mendy was a driving force in building this mikvah,” he said. 

Burnstein recalled a conversation with Klein about the possibility of building a new mikvah, as the nearby The Stanley and Esther Waxman Community Mikvah at the Waxman Chabad Center in Beachwood was at near full capacity.

“At that point, we were asking Mendy to help keep us going with all the difficulty we were having maintaining the current mikvah, and I remember we said, ‘Mendy, we are going to look forward to this project. ... we are going to build, but obviously we are going to turn to you for your help as you are always there for us in our community, but this is a project we are going to build in our community.’ And at that point Mendy was very excited about it – that he was going to be involved in it and, most importantly, to see that our community was going to come together. ... Without him, this really never would have happened.”

Ground will be broken in about two months, according to Rabbi Avroham Adler, vice president of the Cleveland Community Mikvah.

For Rabbi Dovid Ahron Gross of Bais Donnel Shul in Cleveland Heights, the day brought back memories of decades ago of the former Lee Road Mikvah.

“I remember in my house the meetings to build the new Cleveland Mikvah, which is now housed in (Yeshiva) Derech HaTorah/Mosdos,” Gross said. “And my father stood at the groundbreaking of that mikvah for the community and he’s the one who was shvitzing like Rabbi Adler’s shvitzing right now. 

“It’s a great kavod as the community grows, the Greater Cleveland communities grow together and we’re able to be here at a milestone of the knocking down of this home.”

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