2018-01-31 / Local News

Mikvah users find inspiration by tapping into creative waters

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff


Among the women who attended the fundraiser for Mikvah Ohel Leah were (from left), Michelle Goldstein, Atara Paris, Zippy Juni, Rebbetzin Adina Shmidman, Rebbetzin Debi Epstein, Shari Goldberg, Shari Weinberger and Olga Sokolin. Among the women who attended the fundraiser for Mikvah Ohel Leah were (from left), Michelle Goldstein, Atara Paris, Zippy Juni, Rebbetzin Adina Shmidman, Rebbetzin Debi Epstein, Shari Goldberg, Shari Weinberger and Olga Sokolin. On a snowy night earlier this month, 56 women braved winter chill and icy conditions to gather together and ponder the power in the monthly routine of immersion in the mikvah.

“You are part of a sorority of sisters, part of a holy chain, that goes back and back and back to the days of the Beit HaMikdash,” said Dr. Adina Shmidman, rebbetzin of the Lower Merion Synagogue, during a fundraising event Jan. 17 at Politz Day School in Cherry Hill to benefit Mikvah Ohel Leah.

Shmidman, the director of the Orthodox Union’s Department of Women’s Initiatives, spoke about the transformational power of immersing in “heavenly” waters. She provided some mikvah history too, noting that the first mikvah in the United States was built by Cong. Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia in 1788. But when it fell out of repair in the early 1800s, there is docu- mentation of women dunking in the waters of the Delaware River.

“You all trekked through icy roads to be here,” she said. “Think of the Delaware River on a night like tonight.”

According to Jewish law, women immerse in the mikvah after they stop menstruating every month, but they are also used for conversions and for spiritual and bodily cleansing of both men and women.

Mikvah Ohel Leah, created in 2013, is one of two in South Jersey. It is a busy place, open by appointment only and run by volunteers, said Debi Epstein, rebbetzin of Cong. Sons of Israel, who organized the event. Hundreds of women use it 363 days a year. (It is not open on fasting holidays.)

Shmidman, whose talk was entitled, “Tapping into Creative Waters,” pointed out that the private ritual should be viewed not as a passive routine but a chance for renewal each month.

“What makes us human is that we can make decisions and that we are not just passive in our relationship with Hashem, in our relationships with our spouses, in our relationships with our siblings, parents and children,” she said. “We are active. What we were yesterday is not necessarily what we have to be tomorrow. We can transform ourselves and there is something so hopeful about that.”

Cherry Hill resident Michelle Goldstein, who both uses the mikvah and serves as a volunteer, said she found Shmidman’s talk inspiring.

“It make you realize that the effort and routine of it has special meaning,” Goldstein observed. “Sometimes you forget that. It’s nice to get that inspiration.” 

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