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, April 16, 2015

Yom HaShoah 2015: The Miqvah played a role in the lives of Holocaust victims and survivors.

Many Jewish women in these modern days do not understand the significance of the miqvah ritual, or think that it is no longer relevant for our times. Some believe it is imposed on women by men who fear women's sexuality and want to control it. It can be, in fact, a deeply spiritual experience - one that has great personal value. It can also be a link in a long chain, daughter to mother to grandmother, that has been part of Jewish women's lives reaching back into antiquity. It also has great historical significance even in the 20th century, as we see in this article.
Mikvah in the Ghettos: Women and Mikvah during the Shoah by Lani Lederer Berman ...Throughout history, the mikvah has stood at the very core of religious Jewish life and practice, and said to protect the Jewish people both physically and spiritually. It is therefore fitting on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, to explore some of the discourse surrounding mikvah during the Holocaust, when Jewish existence was threatened in both these realms. Though this piece is not an exhaustive examination of the topic, it is meant to join the conversation in an attempt to pay respect to those who endured the suffering and thereby fought for the physical and spiritual survival of our nation. The Nazis understood the importance of the mikvah. Rabbinic responsa record that in many places, specifically in the ghettos,1 the Nazis banned the use of the mikvah and closed them down. They prevented Jews from immersing for any reason, and thereby largely prevented women from keeping the laws connected to family purity. This raised serious questions regarding the propriety of a halakhic marriage. In The Oneg Shabbat Archives,2 which chronicled the lives of Jewish people in the Warsaw Ghetto, Rabbi Yehoshua Moshe Aronson notes that after the Nazi invasion, the mikvaot were closed in the Warsaw Ghetto. This led him and others to worry that “the consecration of married life would be marred by impurity.”3 Likewise, in the Slobodka ghetto, Rabbi Avraham Dov-Ber Shapiro, the chief rabbi of Kovno, struggled over whether to allow marriages, because of the difficulty of observing the laws of family purity in the ghetto. However, when a rumor that single women could be selected for deportation from the ghetto began to circulate, many women sought civil marriages to prevent deportation. Rabbi Shapiro thus decided to perform halakhic weddings, even without mikvah, for pikuach nefesh reasons. Another halakhic authority Rabbi Shimon Huberband, wrote in his responsa (preserved in the Oneg Shabbat Archives), “Jewish Warsaw was left without any mikvahs, and the problem of the purity of the daughters of Israel became as serious as it was in the days of the ancient Roman edicts against Judaism.”4 Anyone who used the mikvah would face the punishment of anywhere from ten years of imprisonment to death. Evidence suggests that the Nazis understood the mikvah to be something that separated the Jews, elevated their sexuality, and set them apart from others. Much like they desecrated Sifrei Torah, using their sacred parchment to make shoes, they used the mikvah, and the purity it symbolized, to taunt and degrade the Jewish people. The Nazis even went so far as to desecrate and defile people in the mikvah itself, as a symbol for the undoing of the Jewish people’s sanctity and lauding their abasement. Chaim Kaplan, who lived in the Warsaw Ghetto, noted in his diary on May 14, 1942: This week they have invented a new torture. Whoever hears of it doubts its veracity, yet this has happened— First they captured a few dozen young and beautiful women and transported them to a certain Jewish ritual bathhouse; afterward they captured some strong, powerful, virile men and brought them to the same bathhouse. Both sexes were forced by means of intimidation and whiplashes to remove their clothes and remain naked; afterward they were made to get into one bath together and were forced into lewd and obscene acts ”5 The Nazis explicitly overturned the symbolism of the mikvah, and turned it into a source for humiliation and degradation. Kaplan’s account continues with the Nazi’s stated aims: “Henceforward, all the world will know how low the Jews have fallen in their morals, that modesty between the sexes has ceased among them.” While the Nazis attempted to undermine or prevent use of the mikvah, it is interesting that many women, and even some communities, attempted to remain steadfast to its observance. Rabbi Huberband discusses how women in the Warsaw Ghetto risked their lives going to nearby towns to immerse in the river or to use secret ritual baths. This was all the more difficult (and heroic) since there was a restrictive curfew in effect, as well as restrictions on transportation. In the Lodz Ghetto, the mikvah was left under the auspices of the rabbinical board of the Judenrat. They made the mikvah a priority, even working to supply coal to heat the water (see above the photocopy of Lodz Rabbinical Board papers, April 1941. From Esther Farbstein’s Hidden in Thunder, p. 334). Various other ghettos were able to rebuild their mikvaot after they were destroyed by the Nazis, and retained their mikvah until the communities were deported. The incredible resilience of the Jewish people is made particularly eminent in the lengths they traveled to preserve the laws of family purity during the period of the Holocaust. On the 27th of Nisan, the Jewish people commemorate Yom Hazikaron L’Shoah U’le-Gevurah. The addition of “gevurah” to the name of the day is meant to emphasize the strength of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, to remember them not as victims but as heroes. The women willing to risk their lives to keep these laws should inspire us; they are reminders of the importance women of all generations placed in the mikvah, and how it continues to bind us to our roots, especially during the most challenging times... [Click on Article Link for footnotes and sources]

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