A blessing for new brides
Two years ago, '0-year-old Naava Applebaum and her father, Dr. David Applebaum, were among seven killed by a suicide bombing in Jerusalem's Caf? Hillel, which injured 51 people.
Naava was to be married the following day.
Several charity projects were launched in memory of the Applebaums, who have close family in Bergen County. Most recently, a bride's room was dedicated at the mikvah in Har Choma, Jerusalem, in memory of Naava.
According to Debra Applebaum, Naava's mother, the Teaneck community played a large role in sponsoring and raising funds for the new room.
Dr. Paige Applebaum Farkas, Teaneck resident and second cousin to David Applebaum, said she and her brother, Dr. Eric Applebaum, also of Teaneck, had little trouble raising the money needed for the facility.
"Debra wrote a letter describing the project and we sent it out to members of our shul, Rinat Yisrael, and dropped some off at the local mikvah," she said.
Farkas said the response was overwhelming.
"We received $10,000," she said, adding that there were over 100 donors.
"I'm sure we would have gotten a good response from the wider community as well," she said, "but at the time, we just reached out to those who knew our family." She added that since Naava had been killed only hours after attending the mikvah, the appeal was particularly poignant.
The Farkas and Applebaum families have been actively involved in honoring the memory of David and Naava Applebaum. Two years ago, Eric and his wife, Sandie, coordinated a memorial service for their cousins, held at Cong. Keter Torah in Teaneck and drawing over 1,000 people.
In addition, Farkas and Sandie Applebaum have instituted a program at the Moriah School of Englewood through which they distribute books of tehillim (psalms) to bat mitzvah girls, each inscribed in memory of Naava.
Farkas describes Naava as a "kind, generous, and down-to-earth girl, exceptionally bright," who had just been accepted into a doctoral program through which she hoped to do cancer research. She said that the summer before the wedding, Naava had come to visit and had gone shopping with cousin Sandie.
Debra Applebaum, who e-mailed The Jewish Standard a description of the mikvah dedication ceremony, said the event drew hundreds of women of all ages. She noted that prior to the dedication, Naava's unworn wedding gown had been made into a covering for the aron kodesh at Kever Rachel, and the skirt of the gown had been fashioned into a chuppah. Numerous relatives and friends of the family have been married under that chuppah, said Applebaum.
Naava's mother said that the bride's room in the mikvah, constructed with red-veined marble, is "lovely to look at [with] an atmosphere that is suited for these young women and their family members who come to wish them well on this most auspicious occasion."
A ceramic work on the main wall of the room depicts large red pomegranates, an ancient symbol of fertility, and bears words of blessing for Jewish brides.
Farkas cites other projects created to memorialize Naava. The Circle of Life Endowment Fund, established by the Women's Division of Shaare Zedek to fund the National Service program at the hospital, raises money by renting couples a specially commissioned wedding canopy. The canopy, designed by Jewish artist Fred Spinowitz, incorporates biblical verses with the word "naava," meaning "beautiful."
The chuppah can be shipped anywhere in the world and rents for $5,000. In addition, a gold and blue topaz Circle of Life pin designed by Spinowitz's daughter, Daphna Brainson, can be obtained for $3,600.
Also launched in Naava's memory was the Naava Applebaum Kallah Fund for Israeli couples who cannot afford to pay for a wedding or for basic household necessities. Sharon First of Teaneck, American coordinator for the Kever Rachel Fund, oversees donations to the fund.
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