After 45 Years, A Jewish Community Breaks Ground For New Mikvah


After 45 Years, A Jewish Community Breaks Ground For New Mikvah

At the groundbreaking of the new Chabad mikvah.

by R.C. Berman - Greenville, SC

March 25, 2008

This March, the Jewish community of the Upstate turned shovelfuls of soil in a pretty section on Chabad’s green half-acre plus property to break ground for the mikvah.

(lubavitch.com/LNS) Two feisty Jewish women, their lives separated by 100 tumultuous years, have inspired the building of a new mikvah in Greenville, SC.

In 1911, Chava Raizel Zaglin put her foot down. There was no way she was budging from New York and moving to the South. Her husband, Rabbi Tzemach Zaglin may have found a job as a pulpit rabbi in Greenville, SC, but the closest ritual bath, mikvah, was in Charlotte. As her grandson Yisroel Ber Kaplan puts it, the prospect of enduring a 12 hour round trip to and from the mikvah each month was enough to keep her firmly planted amongst the Yankees, job or no job.

Like a good (smart) husband, Rabbi Zaglin dug a mikvah in the basement of the cottage home he bought. When his congregation moved into a new building, the community built a mikvah into the synagogue.

In a 1997 oral history that’s part of the Jewish Heritage Collection found in the College of Charleston Library, Frieda Selma Zaglin-Kaplan, the rabbi’s oldest daughter, recalled, “They built a mikvah in the office of the synagogue, and it was down under the office like a trap door and they had to go down under the office in the ground to go to the mikvah.”

Later Greenville’s Jewish community, based on the area’s textile industry, shrunk to its current state of an estimated 3500 souls. The Zaglins’ home mikvah lives on as a planter. A Masonic temple occupies the old synagogue building. For 45 years, there has been no mikvah for women to use in Greenville.

Chabad of the Upstate, under the leadership of Rabbi Adam and Chani Goodfriend, has launched a campaign to bring a mikvah back to the Greenville area. In March, the Jewish community of the Upstate turned shovelfuls of soil in a pretty section on Chabad’s green half-acre plus property to break ground for the mikvah.

Planned by architect Mark Garber, the whitewashed brick building will house a mikvah with soothing spa amenities. A copper waterfall will trickle alongside the ritual pool, a Jacuzzi-style tub and plush accessories complete the 780 sq. foot mikvah building.

The mikvah will be named Mei Leah, for Leanne Goodfriend, Rabbi Goodfriend’s mother.

“My mother’s family, especially her grandchildren, was her passion and consistent source of pleasure. It is very appropriate that this sacred space—a source of new life and catalyst for healthy and happy families” will carry her name, said Rabbi Goodfriend.

In an interview with Lubavitch.com, Rabbi Goodfriend spoke with pride of his mother’s strength throughout her long battle with cancer. She’d leave her hospital bed to visit with her two sons. Positive, strong, resourceful are all character traits her son the rabbi will need to see this project through by its goal date – the anniversary of his mother’s passing, some eight months away.

Mikvah observance, though on the rise in many areas, takes a lot of explaining and sensitive teaching to fully convey the mitzvah’s centrality to Jewish life. Community members, however, believe that the Goodfriends are the right ones to take on the task.

Evelyn Opper has seen the Goodfriends unravel the mysteries of Judaism at the Shabbat morning classes offered at Chabad of Upstate. “Most of us do not understand what we read in the Torah, even though we have an English translation, but when Adam starts talking about it, it makes sense.”

Explaining Torah from the ground up is something Rabbi Goodfriend appreciates first hand. Raised in Pound Ridge, NY, he became interested in the mystical side of Judaism during his years as a student in Oberlin College. He studied at yeshivas in Israel and earned his rabbinical ordination at the Rabbinical College of America. “It’s been an interesting trip,” said Rabbi Goodfriend.

Mike Krupsaw, past president of Temple Bnai Israel in nearby Anderson, SC, is putting his money on Chani Goodfriend’s ability to get things done. “Chani is a dynamo,” said Krupsaw. “She is a real gem of a person, she does a terrific job teaching, running holiday events, besides having five kids.

"If she wants it, it will be.”

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