The Slager Family Mikvah in Oxford cost some $500,000 to build. A team of local women supervised the project.
The Slager Family Mikvah in Oxford cost some $500,000 to build. A team of local women supervised the project.

Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and other notables helped inaugurate the first Jewish ritual bath to be built in the English city of Oxford in more than seven centuries.

Built by Chabad-Lubavitch of Oxford, the Slager Family Mikvah “fulfills a vision by the founders of the Oxford Jewish community dating back to 1845,” according to Rabbi Eli Brackman, co-director of the Oxford Chabad House, which serves local residents and students of Oxford University. “Back then, local Chief Rabbi Nathan Adler inquired about the presence of a mikvah, to which the community of four families, 20 individuals and one ritual slaughterer responded ‘not yet.’ ”

“Today, with 350 Jewish families, and 1,000 Jewish students, Oxford can proudly answer that question positively,” continued Brackman’s wife, Chabad House co-director Freidy Brackman.

Friedy Brackman led a committee of women in supervising the building project. They also designed the interior of the $500,000 institution.

According to the Brackmans, historians say a mikvah likely existed in medieval Oxford 700 years ago in one of the cellars of the houses on S. Aldate’s, formerly the Great Jewry Street.

At the ceremony, Helena Harper, representative of the Board of Deputies for Oxford, told the more than 150 attendees that “the opening of a mikvah here in Oxford has the utmost significance for the future of Anglo Jewry outside the major centers.”

Guest speaker Rivka Slonim, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Binghamton, N.Y., and its campus-based Chabad House at Binghamton University, spoke for an hour about why the mikvah plays such a prominent role in Jewish life. The laws of family purity, she explained, assign the ritual bath a central role in assuring the continuity of the Jewish people.

For his part, Metzger paid tribute to the grandfather of mikvah benefactor David Slager, an Oxford alumnus. The rabbi asserted out that the grandfather, who died in Auschwitz during the Holocaust, would have been extremely proud of the mikvah in his family’s name.

Operations of the mikvah will be supervised by the London Beth Din.