Back in March, when Covid closed Judaism’s central institutions, the most essential aspects of Jewish life soldiered on – Kosher supermarkets, the Chevra Kadisha, and Mikvahs remained opened.
That is, for most Jewish communities.
For tiny, remote Jewish communities in small cities and towns across North America, access to a mikvah – which is always difficult – became more complicated than ever. For years, mikvah-observant Jewish women in remote cities have traveled hundreds of miles each way by plane, train, or car to reach the closest mikvah each month. These are a few of their stories:
A Family Adventure
Rabbi Raffi and Sarah Kats moved to Saskatchewan in the summer of 2011, knowing that keeping Kosher, providing their children with a quality Chinuch, and access to Mikvah would be a struggle.
“We knew it would be an adventure when we moved out here, but we were dedicated to helping build the local Jewish community,” says Sarah. For nearly a decade, Sarah – and any other Mikvah-observant woman in town – has had to arrange complex travel, weather, and family logistics to get to the closest available Mikvah. When her family was still small, Sarah would take a six-hour bus ride with a baby to the closest Mikvah in Edmonton, Alberta. A few years later, the family graduated to family trips – packing the children in the car and staying overnight in a hotel before turning around the next morning for the long trek back home.
While Mikvahs are essential for building Jewish families, they shouldn’t require a full family road trip.
Saved by a Miracle
From Kelowna, British Columbia, the closest Mikvah is a 5-hour drive via a treacherous road called “Hell’s Highway” that makes its way through 3000-foot mountains. Rabbi Shmuly and Fraidy Hecht have enjoyed building up the Jewish community in Kelowna over the last 10 years. In the summers, the mitzvah of Mikvah can be accessible at local lakes. But in the winter, the freezing water is dangerous and driving or flying to Vancouver or Spokane, Washington are the only options.
Fraidy shares that one Chanukah, she needed to travel to Mikvah and flying wasn’t an option. The Hechts set out on an attempt to cross the mountain on icy roads covered in snow. Shmuly was behind the wheel when a frightening car accident spun their vehicle across the highway into the path of a semi-truck. Miraculously, their car landed safely in a deep snowbank at the side of the road. After digging themselves out, they were grateful to be alive and continue on their way. While they describe it as their own personal Chanukah miracle, it is not an experience they ever wish to repeat.
No woman should have to risk physical injury to go to Mikvah.
I Would Use a Mikvah – If It Were Closer
Rebbetzin Fruma Perlstein has taken a few women from her Salem, Oregon community on a trek to Portland’s Mikvah before their weddings. The women expressed joy and interest in continuing the practice – if there was a local option. The distance, time, and cost involved prevent dozens of Jewish women in small cities and towns across North America from participating in the mitzvah of Mikvah. Perlstein is confident that more women would begin using Mikvah if a local one is built.
Going to Mikvah shouldn’t require hundreds of dollars and hours in travel every time.
The need has never been more urgent – remote Jewish communities need their own local Mikvah.
There is now an exciting opportunity to change everything for SEVEN remote Jewish communities across North America:
Fargo, North Dakota
Kelowna, British Columbia
Give today to the Bring Mikvah Home campaign and help build seven Mikvahs, giving hundreds of Jewish women access to a Mikvah right in their own backyard.
Join the effort today at www.BringMikvahHome.org.