On Nov. 15, more than 300 people attended a benefit concert for the Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El Mikveh where Lori Cooper’s brother, Craig Taubman, the hugely popular Jewish musician, performed.
Along with lighting Shabbos candles and making challah, going in the mikvah is one of the three mitzvot for women. In 2002, Rabbi Neil Cooper of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood and his wife, Lori, opened the synagogue’s own mikvah, which has since become an important place for many Jews in Philadelphia.
On Nov. 15, more than 300 people attended a benefit concert where Lori Cooper’s brother, Craig Taubman, the hugely popular Jewish musician, performed.
“This mikvah, from its inception to this moment, has been a labor of love for me, as the founder, and for Lori as our mikvah director,” Rabbi Cooper said. “I raised the money and built the mikvah to serve the needs of the entire Jewish community. Lori has made the mikvah a place of beauty, embrace and warmth. This has made a very real and profoundly important change in the Jewish community of Philadelphia.”
“We needed somebody to attract as many people as possible,” Lori said.
Her brother certainly fills the bill on that count. Taubman’s songs bridge traditional Jewish themes and ancient teachings with passages and experiences of contemporary Jewish life. Taubman, who is on the road for 39 concerts and his first major tour in over three years, said it was an honor to perform at the event.
“She does an amazing job and provides a really special service for the community,” Taubman said about his sister. “It was fun to reconnect with old fans who I had not seen in many many years and to share music both old and new.”
The rabbi told the Jewish Exponent that prior to opening, it was very difficult for non-Orthodox rabbis to find a mikvah available to use and one that would allow rabbis access for the purpose of overseeing conversion ceremonies, which require the use of a mikvah, and for more contemporary uses which are now becoming widespread in the Jewish community.
Lori, who teaches classes at the mikvah, feels it has made a difference not only for women, but men as well. In addition to women coming once a month, men come for their conversion and often
before Shabbat. She added many women use it for healing purposes, such as after losing a job, a divorce, when starting chemotherapy and before surgery.
“Mikvah is all about celebrating transitions and transformations in people’s lives,” Lori said.
Rabbi Leah Richman, community engagement specialist for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, volunteers at the mikvah and even took her daughter Hadassah there before her Bat Mitzvah.
“I love the mikvah,” Richman said. “It is a very spiritual experience, which I have been doing since I was married.”
Jeff Lewellyn of Blue Bell first used the mikvah seven years ago when he converted. Since then, he has gone to it every year on his wedding anniversary.
“When I first heard about it, I was curious about what it was,” he recalled. “It’s a real special place.”
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