Rabbi father of 11 drowns carrying out sea bathing ritual during high tide at Welsh resort
A Rabbi drowned in rough seas while performing a Jewish bathing ritual on the first day of his holiday.
Company director Dov Berish Englander, 47, who was married with 11 children, was on a two-week break with his family and other members of the Orthodox Jewish community when the accident happened.
He had gone waist-deep into the sea off Aberystwyth, West Wales, with one of his sons and other Jewish men to perform the ‘mikveh’ ritual, which involves immersing themselves in water for purification.
But while his friends returned to shore, Mr Englander, who was the director of a property business in Stamford Hill, North London, as well as running a rabbinical college, was dragged under by a large wave.
Aberystwyth Coroner’s Court was told that witnesses saw Mr Englander begin shouting and frantically waving his arms for help as he struggled against the waves.
Holidaymaker David Keating said that he and his girlfriend were walking along the seafront at 7.55am on August 2 when they noticed the men in the sea.
‘We watched them undress a little and dip in and out of the water,’ Mr Keating said. ‘I saw one of them go in further. He was in for a bit before realising he was in trouble. He tried waving and shouting out to the others for help.’
The couple struggled to pull a life-ring from its box on the seafront, while a friend of Mr Englander went back into the water to help.
Another witness, Christopher Tapp, said: ‘I went down with the ring to try to save the gentleman. I think the rope got tangled in the panic to get it out of the box, but the man was too far out and I couldn’t throw it far enough to reach him.
‘He was in the water with his hands in the air, calling for help, but the waves kept pushing the ring back.
‘Then he was lying face down in the water and drifting.’
When asked by coroner Peter Brunton whether he would have gone swimming that morning, Mr Tapp replied: ‘No, it was too rough.’
Mr Englander, who had two granddaughters, was educated in Antwerp, Belgium, and Israel. He met his wife, Baila Rochel, in New York in the mid-1980s.
Mrs Englander, whose children are aged between 22 years and 19 months, said: ‘He was a true pillar of the community, loved and respected by so many.
He would give so much to charity and would do anything to help anyone, but would never boast.’
Thousands attended Mr Englander’s funeral, with some travelling from as far as the US and Israel.
A post-mortem examination found that Mr Englander drowned. Mr Brunton recorded a verdict of accidental death.
A CEREMONY OF PURIFICATION
MOST religious Jews in Britain who perform the mikveh ritual do so in small tiled pools built at community centres or Jewish colleges, which are filled with warm rainwater.
If by the coast, however, the ritual can be performed in the sea. Mikveh water has to be natural – either rain, spring or sea water.
Immersion symbolises a change of status, the idea being that those who enter as impure, emerge purified.
The actual dipping involves standing in the water and immersing the whole body underneath the surface. Those undergoing the ritual have to be completely clean.
In the hours before, people bathe, brush their teeth, use tooth picks, cut their nails, remove all make-up, nail polish and contact lenses so there are no barriers between them and the water.
Some ultra-Orthodox men perform the mikveh every day.
Jewish people have been performing the ritual in the UK since at least the 13th century.
The Hebrew word mikveh literally translates as a ‘collection’, referring to the collection of water.
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