At 16 Whalepond Road, right next door to Sha’are Tefilah (the Eatontown Shul), is where you’ll find the brand new Jherin Esther Gorcey Mikveh. The story of its construction is one of heartfelt prayers, bitter tears, and incredible miracles. As this “miracle mikveh” now reaches its final stages of completion, it behooves us to hear this remarkable story of faith and acknowledge Gd’s unmistakable role in turning this dream into a reality.
Remembering Jherin A”H
Anyone who knew or has even heard of Jherin Gorcey (March 2, 1995 – April 27, 2011) are well aware of how she embodied the ideal of emunah – faith and trust in Hashem. When we reflect upon her short life, it becomes ever so clear that Jherin was sent here to strengthen, encourage, and inspire us all with the message of faith in the Almighty. As she herself wrote in a stirring poem which she entitled, “Emunah”:
Bitachon is what we need,
Emunah is what we gain,
The trust and love we have for him,
Must empower all our pain…
These are words that she lived by, and a lesson she spread to so many, both here in our community and well beyond.
Steadfast in her commitment to influence and inspire, Jherin gathered countless girls together for Torah classes in her home. She invited all girls, regardless of which school they attended, their background or their religious level. Jherin was on a mission, and no obstacle would get in her way. Girls from Hillel, Ilan, the Deal Bet Yaakob, public schools, colleges, and elsewhere, all came to take part in the classes given at the Gorcey home. And they all came for the same reason: they loved Jherin Gorcey.
Her mission and campaign to light up a dark world was progressing at full force until it was brought to an abrupt halt on 24 Nissan, 5771, when the precious soul of Jherin Esther Bat Rachel was returned to its maker. She was buried in Israel, just two hours before Shabbat.
But although Jherin has physically left us, her campaign was far from over.
“The Yetzer Hara Will Surely Do His Best to Interfere”
Following the shloshim, Jherin’s mother, Mrs. Rachel Gorcey, was approached by members of the Eatontown community who suggested dedicating the future mikveh of the Eatontown Shul in Jherin’s memory. Rachel gave the idea some thought, and then agreed. As the project got underway, Rachel was resolute in her conviction that it was her mission to build this mikveh, and she refused to let anything deter her from bringing it through to fruition.
Rachel visited numerous rabbis who cautioned that as building a mikveh is the holiest project one can undertake, the process is all but guaranteed to be fraught with difficulties. “It is an undertaking that the yetzer hara will surely do his best to interfere with.” she was warned. But she was eager, determined, and prepared to confront any challenge that would arise.
As they set out to achieve this goal, Rachel and her husband, Dr. Steven Gorcey, were clueless as to how to proceed. “How do you build a mikveh?” they thought. “Whom do we call? Where do we start?” The very thought of fundraising for a project was foreign to them. Mrs. Gorcey recalls that “the months that followed became a story of a lot of tefillot, a lot of tears, a lot of aggravation, and a lot of miracles.”
With the help of close friends, including one particular individual, who graciously served as the driving force behind the project, the plans got underway. In due time, funds were raised, a team was hired, and the construction began.
Get that Check!
Three years later, after months of construction, the funds for the project were dwindling – and fast. Workers were awaiting payment, and a hefty sum was due.
At his wife’s request, Dr. Gorcey turned to the project’s largest benefactor and asked for a check that would cover the balance. This individual (who asked to remain anonymous) had approached Rachel three years earlier, when she began her fundraising campaign, and generously pledged large donations to be given before construction and after the building’s completion. But as funds were urgently needed in the middle of the project, Dr. Gorcey had no choice but to turn to this donor for help. The donor’s response was disheartening but not surprising. He reiterated his commitment to donate after the mikveh’s completion, but not before.
Dr. Gorcey thought of all the work he and Rachel had invested, all the tears and heartfelt prayers, and he could not help but wonder if this was truly the end of their long and difficult journey. He was at his office at the time, and would be going home after work to share the disappointing news with his wife.
A close patient noticed Dr. Gorcey’s look of despair during an examination. She had always known him to be upbeat and positive, and knew something was not quite right.
“Doctor, what’s wrong?”
Dr. Gorcey told her about the difficult situation he was facing, how all the hard work he and his wife had invested in doing something to memorialize their daughter seemed to be going down the drain. The patient, a nonobservant Jew to whom we will refer as R.E., was inspired by the story of Jherin’s life, and fascinated by the concept of a mikveh and family purity. She decided she wanted to take part in the project.
“Don’t worry,” she said, reaching into her purse and pulling out her checkbook. “I’ll cover the balance.”
Dr. Gorcey came home announcing he had good news to share.
“He gave us a check?!” asked an enthusiastic Rachel Gorcey.
“No, I had no luck with him, but yes, I did get a check.”
Dr. Gorcey told his wife the incredible story that took place at work that day, just a few hours before Shabbat. She was overjoyed to have received the large donation, but what really moved her was knowing there was such a special person out there, and that a Jewish women totally unfamiliar with her religion, let alone the idea of a mikveh, was willing to help with this project. The thought brought her to tears, and after Shabbat she called R.E. to express her heartfelt gratitude.
“I am so moved,” she began. “We are so grateful for people like you.” She assured the woman that she was indeed part of a very holy project. “May your kindness and generosity be with you forever.”
R.E.’s response was a moving testimony to the spark of holiness within every Jew. She told Mrs. Gorcey that she was Jewish, but had never immersed in a mikveh in her life. She confided that she never had any children, and wanted nothing more than to take part in the great mitzvah of building a mikveh. “I want to help the Jewish people,” she said. “It is my greatest honor and pleasure to contribute; it’s truly all my pleasure.”
As their conversation was coming to a close, R.E. made one request. She wanted to know more about Jherin. “When I have time,” she began, “I would love to come see pictures of Jherin…to see where she lived, and how she grew up. It would really mean a lot to me.” Mrs. Gorcey was happy to comply, and invited the woman to her home.
Rachel welcomed her new friend, and the two went through pictures of Jherin, browsed through her bedroom, and discussed stories of Jherin’s kindness and love of life. R.E. was inspired and said she felt nothing short of blessed to elevate Jherin’s soul.
A Very Special Message… From Jherin
Several weeks later, Rachel received a call from R.E., who had some incredible news to share. Anything would have been less surprising than what Rachel was about to hear.
“I had a dream,” she began. “A most clear, vivid dream… It was about Jherin. Do you mind if I come over?” A nearly speechless Rachel Gorcey was quick to consent, and it was not long before the two sat side by side at Mrs. Gorcey’s kitchen table.
In her dream, R.E. explained, Jherin approached her at a beach, greeting her with a big smile. R.E lived by the ocean, but the beach in the dream was not one of the beaches near her home or any beach she had ever visited. Jherin asked that she come join her as she sat watching the waves crash upon the jetties.
“I want to thank you for helping my mother with the mikveh,” Jherin said. “You did such a wonderful thing.” She then told her of the importance and beauty of a mikveh. She expressed its significance and holiness. “This mikveh is going to change the whole community,” she foretold. “Tell Mom I love everything about the mikveh, and that I was with her every time she made a decision. Throughout everything she did – and on all the details she picked, I was with her, and I love all of it.”
But it was the next sentence that truly startled Mrs. Gorcey: “Tell my mother I like those bracelets, that I love them very much.”
“The gold bangles?!” Mrs. Gorcey interrupted, “The four gold bangles I bought her?!”
“No… they were bracelets. As I recall, she said you made her three bracelets… One green, one blue, and one white.”
Rachel went into deep thought, doing her best to recall the bracelets. She ran to Jherin’s room, eagerly pulled opened a drawer, and rummaged through Jherin’s belongings. She did not find any bracelets. Her guest began to feel upset, figuring her memory failed her.
But just then, as Rachel walked out of her daughter’s room, she noticed the three bracelets on her wrists which she so casually slips on every morning. One is green, and bears the inscription, “emunah”; the second is blue and reads, “Jherin Gorcey”; and the third, white bracelet has the words, “Stop lashon hara.” She nearly fell to the ground.
R.E. continued: “She asked me to tell you how very proud she is of you. She said, ‘Tell her the classes given in our home are so great – but we need more! It isn’t enough. There are so many kids off the path of Hashem; so many girls and boys that need guidance.’”
R.E confided that Jherin told her that she, too, needed to ‘get on the right track,’ and when she asked how she should do this, Jherin replied, ‘Do not worry, my mother will find a way to help you.’”
Tears were the only response Rachel could offer. When she heard her daughter’s final message relayed by R.E., her emotions overwhelmed her:
“Tell Mom I love her and I’m always with her. The gift she got me on my 16th birthday…the bluestone ring – I love it. I want her to have it, and wear it.”
Rachel felt faint, and collapsed. After she collected herself, Rachel proceeded to a safe and pulled out the bluestone ring she bought for her daughter’s 16th birthday. It was put away in a safe for two-and-a-half years, but as Jherin requested, Rachel now wears it proudly.
“Make it a Good One”
“This small, little mikveh…consists of so much holiness, so many tefillot, so muchkavannah, so much Yad Hashem, and so much Jherin,” Rachel says. It has been four long years since its conception, and its story, is a story for the ages.
The story conveys the powerful message that we must all strengthen our emunah, as it demonstrates beyond any doubt that Hashem is fully in control and aware of everything.
“As an Israel-born citizen of Ashdod,” Rachel says, “I’ve always wondered, why is it that I am here? For what purpose has Hashem led me to live here, among the Syrian community of Eatontown, New Jersey?” It was only with the tragic passing of her daughter that it all became clear. The puzzle pieces now seemed to fit. She was here, at least partly, to bring Jherin Gorcey to our community, a girl who lived to inspire, and continues to light up our world even after her passing.
Dr. Steven and Rachel Gorcey wish to remind us all that although most of us do not receive direct messages from heaven like they did, we must nevertheless be attuned to the more subtle messages we receive from Gd every day as we go about our lives and our daily routine. We must realize that we are here not merely for ourselves, but for others, and that if we love Hashem, then we love everyone. We must help other people, and learn and grow each day.
“The story of our lives is the only thing we take with us,” they say. “Make it a good one.”
Donate to the Jherin Esther Gorcey Mikveh
If you would like to take part in this special mitzvah and donate to the Jherin Esther Gorcey Mikveh, please mail a check or credit card info to:
Shaare Tefilah /The Jherin Gorcey Mikveh
20 Whalepond Rd. Eatontown, NJ 07724
For more information about the mikveh, please contact Rachel Gorcey at 732-995-9727.
Reprinted with permission from Community Magazine – the most widely circulated Sephardic monthly
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.