Building a Jewish ritual bath is no easy feat. Besides the city permits and zoning issues to resolve, not to mention the fundraising – some mikvahs can cost upwards of $200,000 to build – the process is frequently bogged down by unexpected obstacles. In Colorado Springs, Colo., for instance, crews had to anchor 35-foot steel piers into the foundation of Chabad-Lubavitch of Southern Colorado's new mikvah because of the surrounding clay.

But the finished product is well worth such efforts, say Jewish community leaders embarking on a handful of new mikvah projects worldwide.

Essentially a pool of water connected to a reservoir of rainwater, a mikvah confers a level of ritual purity on those who immerse in it. A collection of Jewish laws dictate the minimum dimensions of a mikvah's key components, as well as how it should be constructed.

In Dimona, Israel, Rabbi Yisroel Gellis can't wait to start building the southern city's luxurious, state-of-the-art ritual bath. He recently received permission for the project from the city's chief rabbi and the municipality. Upon its completion, the mikvah will be one of three in Dimona and the town's only one that conforms to the more stringent requirements of Lubavitch practice.

"As soon as we have some plans, we're going to start building," said Gellis, who together with wife Nava Gellis directs Chabad-Lubavitch of Dimona. "We've needed to build a mikvah here for a long time."

The demand is certainly there, said Nava Gellis. Since she began a weekly class on family purity a couple of years ago, several women have committed to visiting a mikvah.

"The class is very special, because it started in the merit of a woman who was married for a number of years and had not yet had a child," she explained.

Six months ago, the woman gave birth to her first child; the class is now taught in the merit of another woman in a similar situation.

"Now, the second woman is pregnant," said Gellis, "and we won't stop giving the class until she has her baby."

In the past 22 years, the Gellis' opened three nurseries, an elementary school, a synagogue and a soup kitchen. Were it not for the city's other two mikvahs – one of which has just one bathroom for patrons – the ritual bath project would have come sooner.

"Finally, we have some calm," said the rabbi, "and some time to dedicate to the project."

A Community's Top Priority

A finished Lubavitch mikvah in Riga, Latvia
A finished Lubavitch mikvah in Riga, Latvia
Across the world in Cherry Hill, N.J., Nechama Dina Mangel, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Camden County, reported that their project to bring a Lubavitch mikvah to South Jersey was in the final stages of obtaining the necessary construction permits.

The Mangels, who are in the midst of fundraising, predicted that the ritual bath would open by Yom Kippur at the end of September. Currently, the closest Lubavitch mikvah is located in Wilmington, Del., a half-hour drive for women in Cherry Hill and neighboring Philadelphia.

"We've been dreaming about it for years," said Mangel. "We're ready to go."

It could take months and months to build a mikvah in some locales, while governmental boards in others help facilitate a quicker construction schedule. In Colorado Springs, despite the insertion of the special piers, Rabbi Moshe Eliezer Liberow said that the entire Mei Menachem Mikvah project should only take 16 weeks from start to finish.

"I don't like to waste time," stated Liberow, who together with wife Zelda Liberow chose to pursue building a mikvah before securing ownership of a Torah scroll for the community. Jewish law views a mikvah, with its connection to the spiritual health of families, as an absolute necessity for any community.

"Since we started telling people about the mikvah, there has already been a nice response," said Liberow. "We are especially appreciative to Mr. and Mrs. Yingy Bistritsky of New York, who have made a generous pledge for the building of the mikvah."

Rabbi Mendy Grossbaum will oversee the construction of the mikvah, which will boast a full Jacuzzi and music system. The facility will be under the rabbinical supervision of Rabbi Yirmiyahu Katz, who will make periodic visits to the construction site. Katz will also supervise the filling of the mikvah with a minimum of 200 gallons of rainwater.

"There is only about 12-15 inches of precipitation here a year," said Liberow, who hopes the construction will be done in time for the summer showers. "We can go months without rain."

For her part, Zelda Liberow said that she will take a course supervised by Katz to learn all of the legal intricacies involved in being a mikvah attendant. In addition, she plans on bringing out speakers to address the community about family purity as the mikvah's construction progresses.

Said Liberow: "A mikvah brings a spiritual spark to the community."