די היסטאריע פון די שטאט 'געיטסהעד', ענגלאנד.
Gateshead: From Rags to Riches
A group of men walk, burdened by the packs on their backs across the Redheugh bridge. Every tired step brings them closer to the gritty, gloomy, coal-laced atmosphere of Gateshead. It is an unattractive, under-privileged, working-class mining town, not the kind of place that anyone would choose for a pleasure stroll. But these determined men are not on a pleasure stroll. They are pioneers. They have set out, on foot, to do nothing less than begin a brand-new Jewish community.
How did Gateshead become what it is today? Follow the riveting story of Gateshead’s development, from that dreary day in 1887, until the present.
Starting from Scratch
The Gateshead Kehillah is founded by R’ Eliezer Adler, aided by Mr Z Bernstone, Mr I Rosenthal and Mr L Zucker. Four staunch Yerei Shomayim who are determined to enable the new Jewish Community to flourish within the confines of halocha. It comprises of 6 families.
The first thing every self-respecting Kehillah requires is a Shul — but funds are low. R’ Adler corresponds with the Chief Rabbi regarding the possibility of raising funds in London for a temporary Shul in Gateshead.
The Pioneer’s Shul
The fledgling Kehillah appoints its own secretary for marriages. The Chief Rabbi visits Gateshead and examines the Cheder children. A local Keren Hatzedokoh is formed, known as “The Friendly Society to Relieve Jewish poor”.
Population of the kehillah has hit the 123-soul mark. But only 14 members are paying for seats in the Shul, which is situated above a shop on Redheugh Bridge Road.
The Kehillah must eat meat and chicken. The first Gateshead shochet is appointed causing an unfortunate dispute with neighbouring Newcastle, from where meat and poultry has been acquired until now. The Chief Rabbi intervenes.
A truce is evidently negotiated, as soon after, Gateshead assist the Newcastle Beis Hamidrash in the appointment of a shared Rov. Known in Volozhin as the “Musher Masmid”, Rav Sandelson becomes the Rov of both Kehillos.
Fee paying members at Redheugh Rd Shul have increased to 21. Apart from the main Shul, two small Botei Tefillah have sprung up. These are viewed with disfavour and efforts are made to amalgamate them with the main Shul.
How Do You Define a Chilul Hashem?
Rav Yaakov Benzion Mendelson is elected as the first Rov of (only) Gateshead. The Kehillah is now virtually independent. The incumbent Chief Rabbi visits Gateshead and exhorts the Kehillah in Yiddish to ‘embrace the English way of life and not cause a Chilul Hashem.’ There are those members that find themselves nodding their heads emphatically in agreement with this sentiment. They open their own Shul on Prest Street, which becomes known as the Prest Street Shul.
The staunch Yerei Shomayim on Redheugh Bridge Rd, are pleased to see them go. But the community is too tiny to break-off ties completely.
At a meeting between the members of Prest street and the Redheugh Bridge Street Shuls, Rav M J Berman of Grimsby is appointed Rov in place of Rav Mendelson who is leaving to take up a position in Glasgow.
A Kehillah Rabbi Meir Ba’al Hanes Tzedakah fund is established.
Gateshead is once again orphaned as Rav Berman leaves for greener pastures. During these early years, it is very difficult to retain a Rov for very long. In truth, what can the tiny, upper-storey Shul offer, other than unadulterated Yiddishkeit?
Rav Suckmansky of Liverpool is elected Rov after he delivers a highly successful derosha. But Rav Suckmansky’s sojourn in the kehillah also regrettably short and he sets off to return to Poland. Rav S P Heilpern replaces him. Perhaps as a result of this, a major Kehillah meeting is held in which members decide that building a proper Shul is a matter or top priority. A year later, R’ Adler offers to donate the land necessary, and is accorded heartfelt thanks.
The Kehillah is growing and expanding. There are more than 70 children at the Cheder.
The Great Fire
The pungent aroma of burning wood and the crackling of flames terrify the locals, on one dark Friday night. Kehillah members abandon their seudos and dash from their homes as the word rapidly spreads –The Shul is burning down! They run to Redheugh bridge road only to stand by, helpless as the shul is reduced to ash. The fire had originated in the shop below.
Thanks to the quick-thinking and swift action-taking of Rav Heilpern and Mr H Bell, the Sifrei Torah and the seforim are saved. But the kehillah is not so lucky when it comes to their talleisim and tefillin.
A Kehillah must have a Shul, so a temporary sanctuary is opened on Cowper street.
The Little Tin Shul
A dedicated shul building is more of a pressing necessity now, than it has ever been in the past. A Shul constructed from corrugated iron sheeting is erected on a site leased by the London North Eastern Railway co. The trains roaring past drown out the Ba’al Tefillah and cause the entire structure to rattle. But it’s a shul and its theirs.
They tangibly demonstrate their love and respect. Mrs Sigerman presents the new shul with a beautifully carved desk to serve as a bimah. Mr Olsover donates an embroidered cloth to cover it. Mr Mendel Winer presents a silver kiddush cup.
The Kehillah is soon once again without a Rov, as Rav Heilpern leaves town. The illustrious Rav Namiat, becomes the unanimously elected interim Rov of the “Blechener Shul” – The Tin Shul.
An Illustrious Ohel in the Gateshead Chelka
1918 – 1920
Yiddishkeit grows in leaps and bounds as regular shiurim on Halocha, Gemorah, T’nach and Jewish History sre instituted for both men and women. The planning permission for the Blechener shul expires and the Gateshead Council kindly grant it another 3 years.
Sadness grips the Kehillah as the news of Rav Namiat’s sudden death on a Friday night, swiftly spreads. He is the first Rov to be buried in Gateshead. A fund initiated by his devastated talmidim to erect an ohel over his kever is met with a hearty response.
Rav Efraim Mallach, the founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Leeds Yeshiva, is elected to be the Rov and Rosh Yeshiva of Gateshead’s small Yeshiva in place of Rav Namiat. Rav Mallach announces that he is very pleased with the standard of his bochurim, but not so much with the Yeshiva premises. He appeals for improvement and a committee is formed to take care of it.
The Shochet Arrives
The Gateshead Chevra Kadisha approach the town clerk about obtaining land for a Kehilla Beis Hakevoros. Until now, graves have had to be purchased, first individually, and then in blocks from the Newcastle Kehilla. The blocks soon became known as the Gateshead Chelka. Rabbi Namiat had had the distinction of the only Gateshead Rov to be buried in the Gateshead Chelek – the others had been buried in Eretz Yisroel, or had undertaken a subsequent Rabbonus elsewhere.
Gateshead is not leaderless for long, as Rav S P Heilpern is welcomed back home.
A meeting is held in the Blechener Shul, to consider electing R’ Dovid Dryan as Shochet and Bodek. Mr Bell thinks that a Rabbi Brown of London would be a better choice, until it is revealed that he can only shecht birds (oifois) and not animals (gassos)! R’ Dryan is elected unanimously. His wage is £4.10 per week.
A Cunning Kvittel
A high-level meeting takes place to decide when davening should begin on Shabbos during the Summer. Mr Summerfield proposes 9.00AM and Mr Bell opposes this and proposes 8.30AM instead. There are 7 votes for 8.30AM and 6 for 9.00AM, so the early birds are the victors. But all agree that davening should only begin when a full minyan is present.
It is around this time that R’ E Adler announces that he is travelling to Galicia to visit HaRav Yisroel Friedman of Husiatyn, the Husiatyner Rebbe. He adds that he would be happy to take kvittelach with him, from any member of the kehillah, to present to the Rebbe. R’ D Baddiel sends a kvittel containing the following:
“Gateshead has no mikva. The yid bearing this note has sufficient resources to build one. Please tell him to do so.”
For whatever reason, R’ Adler did not comply. Although the Kehilla had its own Mikva society, it did not have its own Mikva, relying on one in Sunderland and others.
A Yeshiva is Born
A serious cash flow crisis is solved by 6 members each contributing £1.00 to the community coffers. The shochet is ordered to present his challaf to the Rov each week.
When appointing the new Shochet, it is very likely that the young Kehillah had no idea what they were getting themselves into. It is not long before his energy and determination are felt, as he decides to open a Yeshiva, with the help of Mr Ben Guttentag. Two bochurim, D Fligg and L Lapin from Leeds constitute the student body. Rav Efraim Fine is the Maggid Shiur. Shiur and sedorim are held at the Blechener Shul. Two years later, the Yeshiva is officially opened and a reception with over 400 attendees is held.
Prest Street shul is petering out, they sell their Sifrei Torah and seforim to the Whitley Bay Hebrew Congregation. They find that the style of other British Kehillos is closer to what they are looking for, and drift away from Gateshead.
A Chol Hamoed Controversy
The children all attend non-Jewish schools during the day. The Education Authority unsuccessfully try to convict parents who keep their children off school on chol hamoed.
The Rov, who is now Rav Monussun, takes ill and Rav Landynsky takes his place as acting Rov.
Our Very Own Shul
Excitement grips the kehillah as plans are submitted to the Gateshead Council for a Shul with an Ezras Noshim, Mikveh, classroom for the Talmud Torah and committee rooms. Finally, a “real” Shul! A permanent, dignified structure in which to serve their Creator. The Blechener Shul has served its purpose. Accommodation for the Yeshiva is also considered, and there are those who suggest that it receives a room in the new Shul.
Rav Monusson unfortunately passes away and Rav Landynsky remains acting Rov. The building Committee think that it’s more important to elect a new Rov than build a Shul, and decide to oppose any building progress until that is achieved. General sentiment is not in their favour and three new trustees are elected to proceed with the building. Twelve months later, Rav Naftoli Shakovitsky is elected, Rav Landynsky having declined to serve as Rov.
“Mizmor Shiur, Chanukas Habayis Ledovid!” With great pomp and ceremony, the Gateshead shul is officially opened on January 15, followed by a seudoh. As the לפ”ק is תרצ”ח, (“You shall murder”) it has been decided to put the following year, תרצ”ט, in the circular stained-glass window.
Seat prices creep up as one moves successively closer to the mizrach vant. The shochet gets a seat in front of the bimah. The community finally has its first mikva.
The Kolel HaRabbonim is founded, without fanfare, at a meeting in the home of Rav Shakovitzsky. The Rov becomes chairman and the Shochet, the secretary. Rav Dessler and Rav C S Lopian are present. Pioneering members include Rabbi C S Lopian, M Schwab, P Gard, K Pinsky, L Grossnass and S Danziger.
Mr Avrohom Dov Kohn of Porth, South Wales, applies for the position of headmaster of the Talmud Torah. He is accepted and promised a salary of £5.00 a week.
Very Humble Beginnings
Rav Dessler invites Rabbi Bamberger of Nottingham to set up a boys’ boarding school. He accepts and Mechina l’Yeshiva Gateshead opens with 12 pupils.
Beis Midrash LeMoroth, The Jewish Teachers Training College is founded by Mr Kohn under the close guidance of Rav Dessler. The first term commences on October 18 at 6 Gladstone Tce, the Kohn household, with one girl.
A new boiler in installed in the mikvah at the cost of £257.
The Yeshiva is flourishing. Rav Leib Lopian joins the Gateshead Yeshiva and establishes Kibbutz. Rav Moshe Schwab becomes the Mashgiach Ruchani.
Educating the Youth
Now elderly, Rav Dryan retires from his strenuous activities on behalf of the Kehilla. Soon after, the Kehilla is saddened with the news of his death.
The crucial decision is taken to hang up a notice with the davening times and not just announce them from the bima.
A full-day Jewish Education for the youth is a pressing need, and Rabbi S Wagschal takes the bull by the horns and opens a Jewish Primary school. The night-time Talmud Torah soon threatens to dissolve as a result. After a while, the two mosdos amalgamate.
Rav Zev Cohen joins the expanding Yeshiva staff.
The Great Fire II
Tears drip unashamedly as memories of the horrific Shul fire in 1911 are revived. A disastrous fire has broken out in the Shul and is destroying the Oron HaKodesh, together with all of the Sifrei Torah. A number of Kehillos from around the country offer loans of Sifrei Torah. A Mrs Fox or North Wales offers the kehillah a soon-to-be-completed Sefer Torah. They gladly and gratefully accept. The melancholy atmosphere is soon transformed with joyous singing and dancing as the Kehilla’s first Hachnosas Sefer Torah takes place.
The Mikva: To Be or Not To Be?
The Committee decide to proceed with the proposal of adding a sorely needed, two-storey extension to the Shul. This is later revised to single-storey extension, and an addition to the Ezras Noshim and mechitzah. The claims conference of Jewish Material claims against Germany offer a grand £750 towards the new extension.
Discussions take place between the Shul, Yeshiva and Kollel, regarding the possibility of opening a second Mikva on land belonging to the Yeshiva. But the Yeshiva soon decide that they need the land, and are not sure if the mikva can be incorporated into their plans.
The Yeshiva Beis HaMidrash is opened by Dayan Swift. New dormitories are also inaugurated. Rav Avrohom Gurwicz joins the Yeshiva
On March 16, Sir Maurice Bloch lays the foundation of Gateshead Yeshiva’s new Beis Hamidrash, Oitzer, Dining hall, kitchen and offices.
Rabbi Bamberger passes away.
The teenage girls are still attending a non-Jewish High School, which for most is an extremely unfortunate experience. Rabbi Wagschal embarks on founding Gateshead Jewish High School for Girls.
The Kehilla is distraught by the passing of Harav Naftoli Shakovitsky on 25 Nissan. The Levayoh begins at 8.30AM and is joined by the entire Kehillah. Rav Shakovitzsky is buried in Eretz Yisroel. Harav Betzalel Rakow is inaugurated as the new Rov of Gateshead at a gala Shalosh Seudos held in the Shul hall.
A Sefer Torah is purchased by the Kehilla at the cost of £500, and a joyous Hachnosas Sefer Torah takes place.
Gateshead Council are Exasperated
Kollel HoRabbonim moves into a new building. A new mikva is still a pressing necessity and land behind the shul is purchased for the purpose (for £40.00). Planning permission is obtained. But for some reason there are still people unsure as to whether the mikva should be built on the purchased land or somewhere else. Meanwhile, Gateshead Council is sick and tired of all of the separate expansion requests from each moisod and wants to treat them all as one entity.
Opened with a Splash
Finally! The new mikva is built adjacent to the Shul and opens in 1975. But the Kehillah are not yet able to cover building costs. An appeal is launched to raise the £4000 that is still outstanding.
Sunderland Yeshiva relocates to Gateshead.
A Shul constitution is drawn up by various Kehilla members, delineating all of the Shul’s official minhogim. The ancient discussion about when davening should begin is picked up where it left off in 1926, when someone proposes that davening should begin at 8.30AM in the winter.
Shul heating is converted from oil to gas.
Torah life flourishes as mosdos sprout like mushrooms. Yeshiva Ketana and Kollel Beis haTalmud are founded. Gateshead Yeshiva laments the departure of Rav Chaim Shemuel Lopian for Eretz Yisrael.
The decision is taken that the Gateshead Council must be formally approached, and the Kehilla’s special requirements carefully explained.
Mr Shine donates a Sefer Torah to the Shul. As the Kehilla further expands, in 1983, plans to build another Mikva and a further extension to the Shul hall are drawn up.
The plans go out to tender, Dillon Construction Service get to work to the sound of the clanking of heavy machinery. The “Sem girls’ section” and the second Mikva is built.
Kollel Zichron Shaul is opened in memory of Rav Shaul Cohen.
The Kehilla reflect in awe on 100 years of growth as Centenary celebrations take place in 1997.
We are Orphaned
The Kehilla is B”ah thriving and expanding. New families flesh out the community. Beis Chaya Rochel Seminary is founded by Rav Avrohom Katz, who steps in the breach as the JTTC bulges at the seams.
The Kehilla is devastated as Rav Rakow who has stood at the helm of the Kehilla for almost 40 years, passes away. The Kehilla has come a long way from its one-Rov-per-year status quo.
Mosdos Orchos Chaim is founded as an alternative to the Primary School.
Hachtoroh of Rav Shraga Feivel Zimmerman
It has now been 5 years since Gateshead was orphaned of Harav Betzalel Rakow zt”l. Finding the ideal candidate to lead the burgeoning Kehilla has not been a care-free process, but finally, the Hachtorah of HaRav Shraga Feivel Zimmerman is announced.
Signs are taped to every lamp post and adults and school children line the streets in bigdei Shabbos. Flags are waved, music plays and fathers crane their necks and raise their children high on their shoulders to catch a glimpse of the new Rov.
After making a heartfelt brochoh on a tallis awarded to him with the pomp and ceremony of a royal crown, Rav Zimmerman delivers his inaugural drosha. Prefaced with Divrei Torah, the Rov begins to explore ways in which the Kehilla might build on its illustrious foundations. He highlights the vital need to redevelop the existing mikva facility. It was designed for the use of 120 families, but now the kehillah is B”ah home to 250. The mikva is now 30-40 years old, far too small, over-used and desperately needs renovating. As the Rov later mentioned, “It is pure Zechus Ovos that the current mikveh is still up and running.”
Men with a Mission
A Building foundation, and Committee is formed of determined and experienced Kehillah members. They are men with a mission – and what a mission it is. They proceed to invest countless of hours of their time into the development of a new mikva. They challenge is mammoth and volume of work appears insurmountable. But they do not desist. Three years later, Mr M Y Fordsham, Committee Member and veteran Developer, relates, “I think it would be correct to say that in the last three years there has not been a single week without proactive… advancement of the project within the committee.”
Doing their Homework
Researching mikvaos worldwide, such as in Israel, the USA and Europe, is one of the significant initial stages. Gateshead is looking to develop a mikva that is kosher l’mehadrin. Intense research reveals the salient aspects of each one, and how to incorporate them. One Committee member flies to examine a mikva in Haifa and dozens in Yerusholayim. He later undertakes the 8 hour flight to inspect facilities in Monroe, Lakewood and Far Rockaway. A host of tips is garnered from a Mikva in Monsey. And of course, numerous mikvaos across the UK are analysed. Mr S Mozes, of R’ Chuna’s in London kindly avails the Building Committee, of his invaluable experience, and his own extensive investigation when developing the Golders Green facility.
Today, where man can’t pace, cables are in place. The Committee telephone architects who designed mikvaos for the Mexican and Russian communities and draw on their expertise.
A comprehensive knowledge base is being acquired and developed. A picture of what the Committee are looking for and how to achieve their goal is being sketched in decisive lines, lines that become sharper and more defined and as the days go by.
Blueprint for Success
Every building begins with a blueprint. The men involved have come to the realisation that a halachically kosher mikva needs similar attention to detail, and precise assignment of every square inch… to a nuclear missile facility. Kevin Doonan architects invest their 33 years of experience into the initial design and then proceed to categorise the project on their website as “complex”:
“The design brief was complex: …mikvehs (for ritual bathing)… all in strict accordance with rabbinical rules were accommodated within, on building.”
The plans are submitted to Gateshead Council by the architects and the Building Committee holds its collective breath. The site is small, with every inch of space ingeniously utilized. It is practically unheard of to procure Planning Permission for this kind of density. The Yad Hashem is plainly evident when the blueprints are accepted. They are on a holy mission and Someone is behind them.
Every Last Screw
Kevin Doonan architects have spent the last year putting in the details. The result? Detailed construction drawings indicating every single minute aspect of the structure. It has been long, tiring year of comprehensive meetings, discussing and deciding the placement of every wire and screw. From number-locks to shower heads, from drainage pipes to door handles, every component has finally slotted into place.
Rumours abound. Every man in Kehillah has an opinion to air on the subject. But it is not until glossy ads announcing “The Launch” appear in the local advertiser that anyone knows anything for certain.
All are aware that the committee have been busy with a new Mikva facility. But questions abound. What will it look like? What have they done? Are there plans? Can we see them? Will we be part of it?
1st of August, 2016 is eagerly inscribed on calendars. Successive advertisements cause curiosity to mount to epic proportions. At the appointed time, the Kehillah arrive at the Bewick Centre in droves. Music is playing, a delicious catered spread is laid on the tables. Glossy brochures laying on the tables portray a 3D computer mock-up of the building in vivid colour.
The Parnes, R’ Y Kaufman and then Rav Shaya Schlesinger from London address the crowds, inspiring a sense of purpose and mission in every attendee, to do their part to change the status quo. The need is desperate and the situation dire. Every kehillah member is urged to “jump onto the bandwagon” and make the mission of equipping Gateshead for its future, his own. But the Gateshead Rov’s address is the one that has the most profound effect on the Kehilla members. In no uncertain terms, the Rov delineates how they are bound by halocha to aid in providing for the needs of the Kehilla – even those who do not require the use of the new facility. He named a clear minimum contribution — £1500 over a course of five years.
The response is remarkable. In a breath-taking display of unity, sense of responsibility, and support, almost the entire Kehilla set up a Direct Debit or contribute to the venture. The staggering sum of 1 million pounds is raised. Combined with a previous 1.4 million pledged by select members of the Kehilla, the Committee are 2.4 million closer to their goal.
But what is the goal? Until a construction company is named and contracted, the Committee remain in the dark as to exactly just how much the project is going to cost. But one thing they do know.
They are nowhere near where they need to be.
The Right Men for the Job
It’s time to see something concrete. A list of 20 potential contractors are drawn up and intense discussions ensue, as the Committee strive to narrow down the pool. Who are the best men for the job?
Aside from being highly-skilled, business-like and good at what they do, the contractors will need to be exceptionally flexible and open to new concepts and ideas. As Mr C Halevieim explained, building a Mikva has no parallel in the outside world. This is partly due to the density of Electrical and Mechanical plant and partly because of the specific requirements of Halocha. These combined conditions are something that the construction crew would be unfamiliar with and would have to embrace with a positive attitude. The Committee invite representatives of some of the companies to view existing mikvaos, to aid them developing a realistic mental concept of what a Mikva is.
A slew of time-consuming interviews follow, until just 6 contractors remain. They are asked to provide an estimate. The moment of truth is soon to arrive.
Three estimates are slapped down onto the table. They are within the 7-8 million pound range. After plenty of debate, three contactors are dropped out of the running. Three remain. The final contestants are tasked with Value Engineering the plans. This means substituting materials for more cost-effective ones, figuring out where to trade quality for expense and vice versa, and capitalising on offers and deals that will result in the best-value-for-money solution.
Mr Halevieim, with his vast experience in contract negotiation in general, and Mikva construction in particular, meets with the contactors in makes various innovative changes to the original plan. Costs originally estimated to be seven million are lowered to just above five million, due to his expertise.
The range is finally reduced to two potential companies, and Meldrum, a construction service based in Dunston, finally secures the contract. But Mr Halevieim is still not done. He labours further with Meldrum, to value engineer further component and alter the original plan. Eventually, the best possible result is achieved.
Excitement builds as Meldrum moves into in the grassy area behind the Shul, setting up portacabins and transporting their equipment.
A Cavernous Commencement
It is on the 5th that the First Excavator rolls onto the building site. Work commences with Meldrum digging a gargantuan, fifteen-foot-deep pit behind the Shul. Memories of the time that Gateshead was sooty mining district resurface as first layers of mudstone, and then the coal seam are revealed. Guided by a map from the Coal Board, (an entity which is surprising still very much alive!), grout is pumped into underground hollows that would threaten the construction with subsidence. The ground, now prepared to safely support further development, is excavated further to allow for foundations for the Boros of the Mikvaos, and drainage to be laid.
The Committee’s dream is becoming reality.
Pouring Concrete and Raising Funds
The aroma of freshly turned clay fills the air, together with the rattle of clanking chains, and the hum of heavy machinery. An observer watching from the periphery of the construction site in fascination, can discern four completed Boros and a fifth larger one on the verge of completion. The crew attempt to remove the heavy metal corrugated piling amid a cacophonous clattering of machinery. The piling comprised the external mould, when the halachically ideal, monolithic concrete pour of the boros took place. Now the four reinforced retaining walls have cured and the mould can be eliminated.
Upon successfully removing a section of piling, the Crawler Excavator carefully negotiates backwards on its tracks, narrowly avoiding delicate capped soil pipes that jut out above the ground at intervals.
Fundraising efforts are ongoing. The Rov and the Parnes, at the helm of the committee, have travelled outside of Gateshead many times to procure funds. Countrywide donors have been contacted and Parlour Meetings are planned. Some of the numerous Alumni who have passed through the town, benefitting from the Kehilla’s support of the institutions that they attended and its students, have expressed the desire to take part in this mitzvah as a mode of expressing their gratitude. The Committee sincerely hope that the public will take interest and support them on this important journey.
A Red Steel Frame
The Kehilla observe the rapid progress with anticipation. The infrastructure of the building is complete until ground level. All five Boros are now finished and are covered, awaiting partitioning. Above ground, a red steel frame has sprouted at a brisk pace under Meldrum’s capable supervision, and the shape of the structure is now clearly defined. The crew are at work high in the air, constructing and sealing the roof of the facility.
The Otzer Mayim – Water Storage Container — on the ground floor, rises in a firm column of concrete close to the centre of the structure. The Committee hope it will no longer be visible by mid-October, when the building will be watertight, roofing and partition walls in place.
The fundraising effort continues. In a remarkable display of unity and determination, the Gateshead Kehilla, which has Ba”h expanded by approximately 16% since the building project was launched, has succeeded in contributing the just over half of the projected cost. Newcomers have gladly participated and pledged their support, but a substantial sum still needs to be raised.
During the coming week, the adjoining Rectory road will be closed for four days, while drainage is laid.
An Imposing Edifice
Excitement mounts as the new Gateshead Mikva facility nears completion. The red steel framework has vanished beneath an imposing, aesthetically-pleasing brick façade. The interior is no longer exposed to the elements, a sturdy roof has been constructed and will soon be weatherproof. Windows have also been installed. A step inside reveals almost all of the interior walls in place, as well as structural elements associated with ensuring a halachically sound waterflow, referred to as “canopies” and “upstands”. The Gateshead Rov, HaRav S F Zimmerman, inspects the boros and declares, “The Kashrus and… hiddur is first-rate, and it will be the mikva that other Mikvaos are measured against.”
The Home Stretch
The second monolithic pouring of the boros took place just before Pesach. This simultaneous concrete pouring of the walls and floor constitutes the actual cavity that will be used for tevila. The pouring was monitored by Rav Chaim Mendelovic shlit”a, of Monroe NY, sent by R’ Chaim Kalman Klein, the Satmar Dayan. Both are considered to be world-renowned experts on mikvaos, and have been involved in the halachic decision making for the mikva from the very beginning. Be’ezras Hashem, after Shevuos, the building should be ready for mechanical and engineering installation and interior design.
We are so close to finish line that we can already sense the euphoria of beholding the finished product. But we can proceed no further.
The Committee have already raised a staggering 3.5 million pounds, but for the mechanical and engineering installation to proceed, a further 2 million is required.
Fundraising in the Kehilla has been undertaken in earnest. Kehillah members have already stretched themselves in a remarkable way, right back from the time of the launch. Now, many have determinedly set fundraising goals for themselves, working individually or in groups. As the Rov succinctly summed it up — the askonim have done their part, now it’s the Kehilla’s turn. Targets have been recorded on distributed forms and submitted to the Mikva Committee.
But it is still not enough. Between 3.5 million pounds and five million pounds there a gap that is beyond the grasp of many. To cover the final lap, the final sprint to the strip of tape, the Committee are triggering a mammoth crowdfunding campaign will be starting off with a bang on May 12.
We stand on the foundations laid by more than 130 years of Torah, Avoda and Yiras Shomayim. We are already pacing the home stretch.
Join us, be a part, provide us with that final spurt of energy that will propel us over the finish line.