A Short History of the Mikvah
at Menorah Park
Until 1978, the San Francisco Jewish community used the Mikvah at Temple B’nai David, located at 3535 19th Street, which was built in 1908. As Jews moved out of the Mission District in the 1960s and 1970s, the B’nai David congregation shrunk and by the late 1970s, the only services held at B’nai David were on the High Holy Days. Concurrently, the physical condition of the synagogue and Mikvah deteriorated.
The Mikvah Society of San Francisco was formed on March 9, 1978, by Ava Brand, Rebbitzin Isabel Lipner, and Rebbitzin Erna Sparer. Ava Brand has been the leading force in the Mikvah operation since its opening.
Rabbi Brian Lurie of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco worked with the team developing Menorah Park, a 151-apartment HUD Section 8 building. While Menorah Park contributed the physical space, the funds for the creation of the Mikvah facility was financed partly by the proceeds from the sale of Temple B’nai David. Additional funds were raised by the Mikvah Society of San Francisco.
The San Francisco Mikvah was designed by Carmeli Adahan, who worked closely with Rabbi Jacob Traub of Congregation Adath Israel. Rabbi Chanania Yomtov Lipa Deutsch,* a Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to building Mikva’ot in U.S. communities, came to San Francisco from New York to supervise the design and the pouring of the cement for the Mikvah.
* Rabbi Chanania Yomtov Lipa Deutsch, the Helmetzer Rebbe
Rabbi C.Y.L. Deutsch, commonly known as the Helmetzer Rebbe, was affiliated with the Satmar Hassidic sect and had been serving as Rabbi of Helmetz, Hungary in the years following WWII. An erudite scholar, he had a particular expertise in the laws of Mikva’ot. Upon arriving in the US in 1949, he established a congregation and bet Midrash in Cleveland, OH and shortly thereafter went on a veritable campaign by touring Jewish communities around the country and identifying community Mikva’ot that he deemed were not in accordance with Halakha.
He sought to convince those communities to make improvements that would bring their Mikva’ot in line with higher standards of kashrut. By 1954, he had repaired or helped build more than 40 Mikva’ot. By 1956 it was reported that he had helped repair or construct 59 Mikva’ot. By the end of his life in 1990, that number grew to nearly 200 Mikva’ot throughout Europe, North and South America, Australia, and South Africa.
Learn more in this J article, Demystifying the Mikvah.
About this Website
This website is the result of a collaboration between Ava Brand, Betsy Eckstein, Chani Zarchi, Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf, Joan Levison, and Ellen Tobe. Special thanks also go to Rabbi Batshir Torchio and Rabbi Lavey Derby for their input and editorial assistance.
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