Featuring ramps, hydraulic lifts and wheelchair-accessible preparation rooms, Florida’s first Jewish ritual bath built with the needs of the physically-challenged in mind will be inaugurated Sept. 6 in the Broward County community of Hallandale Beach.

Managed by Chabad-Lubavitch of South Broward, the new Mei Menachem Mikvah will comprise two separate facilities for men and women, as well as an additional pool for the immersion of kitchen utensils, an essential step in the koshering of vessels.

“This will really open the door to more people to fulfill the important [ritual] of mikvah use,” said Rabbi Rapheal Tennenhaus, director of Chabad of South Broward, home to the Congregation Levi Yitzchok-Lubavitch synagogue, the Hallandale Hebrew School and the Chaya Aydel Seminary. “For some people, it was just too hard to fulfill this mitzvah before, but now everyone will have accessibility.”

Essentially a pool of water connected to a reservoir of rainwater or snow melt, a mikvah is a fixture of most established Jewish communities. A necessary component of the laws governing Jewish family life, the ritual bath is traditionally visited by married women on a monthly basis to acquire ritual purity. An increasing number of men have also taken up a custom, followed mainly by Chasidim, of immersing themselves in a mikvah prior to morning prayer services.

Besides being the first mikvah in the entire state for the physically-challenged, the institution will be the first ritual bath built in Hallandale Beach in modern times. At the Chabad House’s 28th Annual Dinner next week, the community will dedicate the Elana Leah Women’s Mikvah in honor of a complete and speedy recovery of Elana Kasle, and the Yoseph Mordechai Men’s Mikvah in memory of Yoseph Fellig, father of Chabad House co-director Goldie Tennenhaus.

Two weeks before a dedication ceremony, workers were putting finishing touches on the new ritual bath’s three separate facilities.
Two weeks before a dedication ceremony, workers were putting finishing touches on the new ritual bath’s three separate facilities.

“The new mikvah is better for everybody,” said Miami resident Jonah Shiurmerini, who added that his walker will not prevent him from going to the ritual bath. “This will definitely attract more people to use it.”

South Florida’s Jewish community numbers in excess of 700,000 people, while thousands more visit the area as tourists and business travelers. Although religious institutions are exempt from the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Chabad House’s decision to construct what has essentially become an ADA-compliant ritual bath follows similar efforts in Monsey, N.Y., and Jerusalem.

Chaya Sara Robbins, who suffers from a chronic kidney condition, said that there was a time that she didn’t need any special accommodations to visit a ritual bath. But when her condition deteriorated five years ago, she found herself in constant need of a walker.

“Before I had my walker, I never thought twice about being able to use the mikvah. It didn’t occur to me until I had to go down the steps into the water,” said Robbins. “I then realized how important it is to have a mikvah that is accessible to everyone. That fact that I have options now is a relief.”