By Mina E. Gordon
It was an evening full of laughter. It was an evening full of tears.
It was the Melbourne Women’s Mikvah Chaya Moushke Chinese Auction, and opening of the new kallah room dedicated to the memory of Rivkie Barber obm.
Organized by a small but determined committee headed by mikva lady extraordinaire Timmy Rubin, it was an evening to remember. Held in S. Kilda town hall, 500 Jewish women of different walks of life, put their tickets into the designated boxes, hoping to win the prizes of their choice. After agonizing over whether to put all their tickets in one ‘basket’ or to spread their luck, participants moved on to the refreshment tables. Delicious dairy desserts were tastefully set out, created by Josh Luftig and his team at of Roquette Catering. If that was not enough, there were drinks provided by Liquid Infusion.
We didn’t just come to eat drink and be merry, but to give Tzedaka and pay tribute to the memory of a very beloved Shlucha, Rebbitzen, teacher, and friend.
Rivkie Barber obm, was a very warm, vibrant, positive person, who was full of life and humor. A beautiful preparation room for brides is certainly a very fitting way to cherish her memory. Dr. Debbie Herbst explained how the idea came about at a Yomtov table, and how it soon became a reality.
Chaya New had the audience alternating between laughter and tears. First she described her connection with Rivkie Barber obm, from elementary school until Rivkie’s tragic passing two years ago. She described Rivkie’s vivacious personality and humor, and how she would have appreciated the project to renovate the Mikvah. Tears were soon replaced by smiles, as we were then treated to a very funny but meaningful story of Chaya’s first experience as a kallah teacher.
After Chaya, Timmy Rubin spoke about how this beautiful evening came to be, with the help of many wonderful volunteers. She showed a video, featuring a variety of women of diverse backgrounds expressing their commitment to the mitzvah of mikvah. The icing on the cake was when she told of a beautiful experience that she had, the evening a visiting mikvah-goer handed her a large sum of cash to give anonymously at her discretion. That night another mikvah-goer, who was the fortunate recipient of the money, told Timmy that up until that moment, she had no idea how she would pay the rent that was due. Timmy concluded that the mitzvah of mikvah not only connects Jewish women with Hashem, but it connects Jewish women with each other.
Next was Mrs. Nechama Heber, mother of Rivkie obm, who had came from Crown Heights to be the guest speaker. Again all eyes filled with tears as she told us how she had been afraid that when she would come to Melbourne, where Rivkie had lived, and would see that she is missing, the loss would be most confronting, but instead, she found that her Rivkie is still ‘here’ in our midst, as her mark is visible in the community. Mrs. Heber finished off on a positive note, inviting everyone to sing with her “Hashem Melech, Hashem moloch, Hashem yimloch l’olam vaed”.
Now it was time for the auction: the real estate auctioneer, Phillip Kingston, did a brilliant job, keeping the audience in stitches and the bidding moving. Phillip conducted a live auction and had the audience in fits of laughter throughout. Next was the drawing of the prizes including a trip for 2 to Israel, a thermomix, a weekend away in Wye River and others. The prizes had all been very generously sponsored so all of the proceeds from ticket sales went to help further refurbish the mikva. Between the banter, Mr. Kingston told about his experiences as the only Jewish boy in a rural school in Cootamundra.
In an incredible follow-up to this, upon coming home, one of the organizers mentioned this to her husband. He jumped up and said, “Close to 40 years ago, I and two other young men travelled around Australia in a campervan, visiting Jews that were living far from any Jewish community. One of the places we visited was a farm near Cootamundra. The family’s name was Kingston!” These 3 men were the first to go on RARA to Jews found in rural and regional Australia. How fitting that some 40 years later, Phillip Kingston ended up helping at a Mikva Chaya Moushke fundraiser!
Boruch Hashem, it was a wonderful evening and a successful event. Everyone was a winner, as the money raised will enhance the mikvah and the mitzvah of Taharas Hamishpacha.
It was an evening of tears and of laughter, an evening of tzedakah and unity,
and I am sure that Rivkie (of blessed memory) was enjoying every minute of it.