When Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus came to South Florida in 1980, he was the first rabbi of the Lubavitcher movement to open up a small storefront shul in Hallandale.
His storefront facility, Congregation Levi Yitzchok Lubavitch, has grown into a shopping center called the Broward Chai Center on Hallandale Beach Boulevard. The Center is home to a pre-school with 70 children, a Hebrew school with 55 students and the Chaya Aydel Seminary, women’s seminary with 25 women from around the world studying Jewish traditions.
The Broward Chai Center is also the headquarters for 12 Chabad Centers in South Broward, five in Hollywood, one in Cooper City, Davie, Weston, Pembroke Pines and Hollywood Beach.
Now, in its 28th year, Congregation Levi Yitzchok, recently dedicated three mikvahs for the community; one for men, another for women and a third for dishes.
“The facility cost $810,000 and we have raised $510,000 thus far for the project,” said Tennenhaus, South Broward Chabad executive vice president. “We started the mikvah project two years ago but ran into several problems which delayed its construction.”
Tropical storm Faye wrecked havoc on the mikvah. The mikvah floors crumbled because of a water problem and the cement had to be torn up and the floor redone and funds were low because of the economic situation.
“The mikvah will serve women in our area and from adjacent counties as well as women from around the country who are staying at hotels in the area,” Tennenhaus said.
“This mikvah is special because it has a hydraulic lift that women with disabilities can use,” Tennenhaus said. “Men can also use the hydraulic lift as it is portable.”
The mikvah complex has four prep rooms, each differently designed. The women’s mikvah also has a Japanese soaking tub and the men’s mikvah has a steam room.
Tennenhaus said that the mikvah was built to meet the needs of the changing South Broward Jewish population.
“When I came here 28 years ago, Hallandale was mainly an area for senior citizens,” Tennenhaus said. “The seniors are not required under Jewish law to use a mikvah, but today we have many young families in South Broward and the women need a mikvah.”
Margie Szerer, 40, lives in the area and plans to use the mikvah.
“It is a beautiful thing that they have done for the community,” Szerer said. “I am looking forward to using it and hope other women will also be inspired to use it.”
Ella Licht, 43, will be able to walk to the new mikvah.
“We live nearby and now I can walk to the new mikvah,” Licht said. “It is a very spiritual place, very serene and it looks like a luxury spa.”
The men’s mikvah is used daily by observant men in the area.
“The men immerse themselves in the mikvah before praying,” Tennenhaus said. “The mikvah prepares men for prayer. It gets them into a state of humility as they stand before God in prayer.”
The third mikvah is for new dishes.
“According to Jewish law it is customary for new dishes to be immersed in water in a mikvah before they are used,” Tennenhaus said