Recently uncovered architectural plans open a window into some of the endless effort that went, and goes into the Rebbe’s Mikvah on Union Street. But some say that recent plans make the Mikvah’s future uncertain.
By Anash.org reporter
Despite its simple and unobtrusive exterior, the Mikvah at 1506 Union Street in Crown Heights holds a special place in the heart of all Lubavitcher Chassidim. After all, it is the only still-existent Mikvah that was regularly used by the Rebbe.
Recently uncovered architectural plans open a window into the endless efforts over many decades to keep the Mikvah functional and to improve the facilities whenever possible. But recent plans have many community members concerned for the continued function of the Mikvah.
For many decades, the Mikvah at 1506 Union was the solitary mikvah tahara in the entire Crown Heights. With the heavy usage of the mikvah, a number of renovations were undertaken over the years, to maintain and upgrade the Mikvah.
Famously, when one renovation dragged out over a long period of time, the Rebbe went as far as to sell the shul of 770 to speed the process up!
During one of the renovations, the Vaad Hamikvah enlisted the help of an architectural firm, who drew up plans for the renovation and subsequent Mikvah building. A preliminary draft of the plans, which shed some light on the vast amount of effort that went, and continue to go into the Mikvah, were uncovered by Anash.org and can be viewed here.
But some community members are concerned that recent plans put all that work at risk. A new center, planned to open just feet from the Mikvah, will severely curtail the Mikvah’s operations at best, and possibly bring a drastic drop in its usage, they say.
The new center, which is meant to house a shul, social hall, and event spaces, will be built directly across the Mikvah’s entrance. More concerning, residents say, is the fact that the social hall will be used for simchos, meaning that the corner will be buzzing with people precisely during the nighttime hours.
“If one takes a glance outside any one of Crown Heights’ simcha halls on any given night, he will see people hanging out outside the hall, talking on the phone, shmoozing, or just wandering around. There is no reason to believe this new hall would be any different,” one concerned resident told Anash.org.
Additionally, plans for the center show large windows by the entrance, which face Union Street, but have a clear line of vision to Albany, just mere feet away. Event spaces will also keep the block full at late hours of the day and night.
One resident who contacted Anash.org stressed that they did not have a problem with a regular building in the lot. It was the type and usage of the current center that concerned him.
“Filling the empty lot with a apartment building would be a welcome development for the community. In fact, the Rebbe himself attended a groundbreaking for exactly such a building on Erev Rosh Hashana in 5748,” he said.
“However, the building planned then was an apartment building, and to the best of my recollection, the Rebbe told the people behind it that they should not have any windows on Albany Ave., facing the mikvah. The new plan is for a community center and simcha hall, an entirely different ballgame. Not to mention that the plan shows the building with windows facing Albany,” he said.
Another concerned community member pointed out that for many who live in the “higher” blocks of Crown Heights, the Mikvah on Union is the only feasible option. A disruption to their service could have far-reaching effects on the community.
“In Halacha we learn that one can even sell a shul to build a community Mikvah,” they said. “Ironically, in this case, it is a shul being built that may very well damage the function of the Mikvah.”