Lack of bingo revenue shutters facilities
By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer
In the absence of bingo money, which sustained their fund raising for several years, two longtime Jewish non-profit organizations based on North Main Street will close their doors at the end of January.
The Dayton Chapter of Hadassah, which has maintained an office at 5045 N. Main St. since 1995, will now operate out of volunteers’ homes and the home of Dena Briskin, Dayton Hadassah’s administrative assistant.
The Dayton Ritualarium Society, which oversees the Rosenberg Dayton Community Mikvah at 7020 N. Main St. — in the rear of Beth Jacob Congregation’s parking lot — will temporarily close the ritual bath facility until it can raise money to fund renovations of its furnace and pipes.
“There are some repairs we’ve got to get done and we don’t have the funding for it,” said Dayton Ritualarium Society Treasurer Goldye Kopmar. “We had to end the bingo because we weren’t making enough money. We’ve been so dependent (on bingo). Bingo at one time was so big.”
Briskin said Hadassah’s largest source of revenue had also been bingo. She said Hadassah didn’t renew its bingo license application for 2014.
“We didn’t have the (bingo) funding we had earlier,” Briskin said.
“We knew it was only a matter of time until we too had to close our doors,” Dayton Hadassah President Shelly Tarsky wrote in the chapter’s January newsletter. “Bingo was how we financed our office.”
Briskin, who has served as Dayton Hadassah’s part-time administrative assistant for 10 1/2 years, will continue to work from her home a few hours each week. She said Hadassah will set up a post office box and cell phone number as well.
“We want to be sure that people understand that the organization is still going, we’re not closing up,” Briskin said.
Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, was founded in 1912. Dayton’s Hadassah chapter dates to 1921 according to Briskin. Nearly 400 members are listed on the current chapter roster (including former Daytonians); approximately 100 of these, Briskin said, are active.
She said the closing of the local chapter office isn’t connected to the financial challenges facing national Hadassah and its funding of the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
According to the Forward, the hospital faces a $300 million deficit as a result of the economic downturn, and national Hadassah’s $135 million in losses from investments with Bernie Madoff.
Though national Hadassah has shut down offices across the country, its regional office in Columbus remains open, which also serves as the office for the Columbus chapter of Hadassah, the only city office to remain in Ohio.
Established in 1958, the Dayton Ritualarium Society opened the Rosenberg Mikvah in 2008. A year later, a separate entity, the Miami Valley Mikvah, opened at Sugar Camp in Oakwood.
In accordance with halacha (Jewish law), a mikvah is a ritual purification bath where observant married women immerse themselves following their monthly cycle. Mikvahs are also used for conversions to Judaism and for immersion of new kitchenware products.
Though not required by Jewish law, some men immerse themselves in the mikvah as a spiritual exercise.
Kopmar said the Ritualarium Society had a regular clientele of 14 to 15 women until the mikvah in Oakwood opened. Now, the number is fewer than half.
When she and Ritualarium Society President Eva Rosenberg decided to temporarily close the mikvah, Kopmar contacted the mikvah’s supervisor, Rabbi Yirmiyahu Katz of Borough Park, N.Y., for instructions on how to ensure its kosher status when it reopens.
“He told us what to do, to keep it so that it’s not going to be contaminated in any way,” Kopmar said. “We’re putting a seal over the borot (reservoirs). They cannot be opened or contaminated. So when we reopen it, it will be considered a kosher mikvah immediately.”
For now, Kopmar and Rosenberg are guiding their clients to the Oakwood mikvah. The Ritualarium Society’s phone number at the Rosenberg Mikvah is disconnected, but the society has set up an email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kopmar said the Rosenberg Mikvah is equipped with a security system and that Beth Jacob Congregation, a separate entity from the Ritualarium Society, makes a point to keep that area of its parking lot well lit.
“It’s very sad,” Kopmar said. “What we’re really hoping is that the new rabbi, when we hire at Beth Jacob, will take it on and help us to raise money for it and that can continue it.”
Beth Jacob has been without a rabbi since the summer.