By Bart Jones
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) While mikvahs were traditionally used by observant Jewish women to purify themselves seven days after each menstrual cycle; people are going to mikvahs before bar or bat mitzvahs or after difficult experiences such as a divorce or surviving cancer.
In Jewish communities across Long Island, interest is growing in an ancient ritual with intricate rules in which women immerse themselves in small, elegant indoor pools.
Known as mikvahs, the pools traditionally are used by observant Jewish women to purify themselves seven days after each menstrual cycle, providing a deeply spiritual experience.
But in a modern update, some are repurposing the mikvahs, also using them to mark a new beginning in their lives after events such as a divorce.
Their use extends beyond the Orthodox community, even to some women who are not particularly religious.
“It is so pristine and so spiritual,” said Chaya Teldon, co-director of the Chabad movement on Long Island. “Some women say it is like a rebirth, like being in the embryonic waters again. It’s your time to talk to God.”
Long Island is home to 13 mikvahs, nearly half of them constructed by the Orthodox Chabad movement in the last decade, Teldon said. They are located in communities including Port Washington, Dix Hills, East Hampton, Great Neck, Cedarhurst and Long Beach.
Chabad has three more under construction in Kings Point, Roslyn and Stony Brook.
In April, the Chabad movement celebrated a “Week of the Jewish Woman” with a series of events that included the grand opening of its newest mikvah in Patchogue. Chabad is an Orthodox, Hasidic Jewish educational and religious organization.
“I always had a dream to have a mikvah in my own community,” said Rabbi Berel Sasonkin, who leads the Chabad of Patchogue. His wife, Chaya, said the mikvah “is the Torah’s way of keeping women respected and valued and cherished.”