Lexington Miqvah Foundation

Our mission is to build a small, attractive, egalitarian, kosher miqvah facility in the Central Kentucky area. We want to be able to enjoy the convenience of a local facility to observe mitzvot and to commemorate both private and public lifestyle events, broaden our spirituality, and connect with our ancestors in an unbroken line of observance stretching back to antiquity - and on into the future!

We wish to participate in the growing spiritual trend that is sweeping the nation to reclaim and reinvent one of Judaism's most ancient rituals - immersion in the miqvah - for contemporary spiritual use. We will teach about this resource for all men and women who are interested in new ways to express their individuality, and make the miqvah a sacred space that is open and accessible to all Jews including Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Unaffiliated, and Secular, including those in the process of becoming Jews.

In order to fulfill this mission, we have these goals in mind:

1. Provide a welcoming, beautiful place for traditional and creative miqvah uses.
2. Foster new ceremonial uses for the miqvah relevant to the 21st century Jewish community.
3. Provide information and accessible hours for those observing the mitzvah of niddah.
4. Recognize and promote the unique interests of men and women in traditional and contemporary miqvah practice.
5. Provide educational resources (both classes and teaching materials) regarding the uses of the miqvah.
6. Secure the financial future of the facility by operating in a fiscally responsible manner and through such means as debt avoidance, annual fund, and endowment development.

The Bluegrass area has been without a community miqvah for many years now. Join the Lexington Miqvah Foundation in this historic opportunity to being both tradition and a modern spiritual practice back to the area.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Miqva'ot in the News

Thursday, January 26, 2012
Doulas draw from Jewish tradition as birth helpers
by emma silvers, j. staff

On a gorgeous January morning, sunlight streams through the windows into Leora Hahn’s cozy living room in Oakland. Several women are gathered around a coffee table, sitting on well-loved couches. A couple of them are taking notes. They could be planning anything — a PTA fundraiser, a local food drive, a community block party.

Except, in this case, umbilical cords are involved.

After giving birth, doula Wendy Kenin explains, there is a relatively recent practice of waiting before clamping and cutting the cord — it’s thought to allow more blood and nutrients to pass from mother to child...

The Imeinu Doula Collective, based out of Oakland, provides support throughout pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. Doulas aren’t medical professionals, but they can help with nearly everything else: easing prenatal aches and pains, teaching breathing exercises, arranging babysitting for other children during labor and offering postpartum emotional support.

The 4-year-old Jewish collective — six women, each with different training and specialties — also offers a unique angle on pregnancy and labor: Judaism and a sense of deep spirituality color almost everything they do.

“We serve such a diverse range of clients — Nigerian, Chinese, we had a Muslim couple. Certainly not everyone is Jewish,” says Kenin, who is Orthodox, a founding member and, according to her fellow doulas, the “glue” of the collective. “But we do draw strength and guidance from the Jewish tradition. There’s so much in the Torah about birth and midwifery, so many birth stories, so much wisdom,” she adds.

“Doulas support women informationally, physically and emotionally — we can also add ‘spiritually’ to that list.”

For observant or Orthodox women, the birth process can present a host of additional challenges — challenges for which the Imeinu (“our mothers”) collective is well-equipped.

“As soon as a woman excretes any kind of blood, she’s niddah [ritually impure], so her husband’s not allowed to touch her,” explains doula Hilah Zohar. “I had an Orthodox couple, and I’m shomer Shabbos, so I knew exactly what to do — I was just doing gentle massage when her husband couldn’t. And they were saying, ‘This was one of the smartest things we’ve ever done.’ It can take a lot of pressure off a woman’s body just to have touch.”

For women who want a mikvah, the collective also offers access to one affiliated with Chabad of the East Bay. Miriam Ferris, wife of Chabad Rabbi Yehuda Ferris — and mother of 10 — provides important spiritual guidance to the group and is something of an honorary member, the doulas say.

...Though Hahn had her first two children without a doula, she started looking into doulas for this pregnancy for a number of reasons.

Hahn is Jewish (she heard about the collective because her daughter and Kenin’s attend preschool together at Oakland Congregation Beth Jacob), so the doulas have brought her a few relevant objects today. A slip of paper contains the Birkat HaGomel, a prayer recited by “one who has survived a dangerous situation.” A red string from Rachel’s Tomb, some believe, offers protection. A laminated card offers Hebrew prayers a husband might say on behalf of his pregnant wife.

Supporting a father can be a significant part of a doula’s work, Proctor notes. “He’s watching a woman that he loves in pain, and that can be very scary, especially if he doesn’t feel like he knows how to support her,” she says. “If we can relieve him of other things — help with other kids, whatever it is — all he has to do is be there for her.”

As someone whose doula training took place mostly with home births, Kenin says she is motivated to help women re-create a natural, home-birth process in a hospital, with as few interventions as possible. Interventions, in this case, can be anything from medication for strengthening contractions (to speed up the process) to epidurals (though the collective stresses that the decision to use pain medication is wholly up to the mother).

...While the concept of a doula is not new — the word comes from ancient Greek, meaning “female caregiver” — more and more women are opting to use them in the U.S. As of 2009, the Doula Organization of North America counted 7,000 members, compared with 750 registered in 1994.

And as more women are choosing to use doulas, medical practitioners have gotten used to the extra presence in the delivery room, according to Kenin, and often are quite happy to have them there. Hahn, due Feb. 19, plans to have her baby at Alta Bates Hospital — and she’s grateful for anything the doulas can tell her about how the maternity ward there tends to run.

“In a sense, it’s only been the last 100 years or so that this process was taken out of homes, out of the hands of the mothers,” says Kenin. “And Judaism is a very woman-centered tradition, which is something many people may not realize. We’re performing a lot of the same rituals our ancestors did. We’re transmitting that knowledge. We’re taking it back.”

The Imeinu Doula Collective can be reached at ImeinuDoulas@gmail.com.
For information on doulas, visit http://www.dona.org.

Women are the true backbone of Judaism, there's no doubt about that. And the mitzvah of miqvah is a time-honored part of our spiritual tradition, one that we can reclaim and strengthen even here in the 21st century.