New Bala Mikvah Expected to Ease Overcrowding

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Demolition on the warehouse — located at 111 Union Ave. — recently began, and construction will take place after Passover, sometime in May.
 

Instead of schlepping to one of Wynnewood’s other mikvahs, some Lower Merion residents can stay a little closer to home this fall.
 
Community members raised millions of dollars to renovate an old warehouse in Bala Cynwyd to create the Lower Merion Community Mikvah.
 
Demolition on the warehouse — located at 111 Union Ave. — recently began, and construction will take place after Passover, sometime in May.
 
Stuart Rudoler, a member of the mikvah committee, estimated that the construction should be complete in five or six months. 
 
With three mikvahs in the Northeast, two in Center City, two in Bucks County and three along the Main Line, the new mikvah center will be in walking distance of several synagogues and Jewish schools. 
 
The idea for a new mikvah, or ritual bath, came about five years ago.
 
The Lower Merion Synagogue mikvah is used mostly for special occasions, and much of the community tends to use the one at Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia in Wynnewood.
 
However, Torah Academy is experiencing its own set of renovations to its building, and Rudoler said the mikvah is relatively small for the 30-plus years it’s been around. 
 
“One can’t handle the number of people who are going and using it these days,” he added. “It is not as aesthetically pleasing as everyone would like.”
 
The community purchased the site — an 8,000-square-foot warehouse that was being used by the Lower Merion School District — in 2013. 
 
The project will cost $3.4 million, and the community has raised more than 80 percent of its goal so far, or about $2.9 million.
 
Of that amount, more than 200 families have contributed $1,800 or more.
 
The mikvah will also be handicapped accessible and include a separate men’s mikvah. That is not currently an option at Torah Academy, although there is one across the street from the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia in Overbrook.
 
The new mikvah center will be able to accommodate more than double Torah Academy’s space, increasing from four changing rooms to 10.
 
Rudoler estimated about six to 10 women go to Torah Academy’s mikvah each evening, but predicts more will take advantage of the new one. 
 
“Our working projection is that we’ll have nine women using it per evening,” he explained. “We’re building capacity to handle 30 women an evening. We’re hopeful that the community continues to grow.”
 
Davasha Stollman, another mikvah committee member, said that with Torah Academy’s renovations, it’s not the most ideal place to experience mikvah modesty, especially with school meetings and such going on.
 
And since the Jewish community in Lower Merion has grown so much over the years, an additional freestanding space for a mikvah is a step in the right direction. 
 
“A mikvah is the cornerstone of Jewish family life,” she continued. “As we see our community growing in numbers, this is just a crucial part of having our community kind of be able to grow and flourish. It’s just a key piece of any functional, productive, happy Orthodox community.”
 
The new site is just off City Avenue, almost at the corner of Union and Bryn Mawr avenues, so it is relatively enclosed location with a decent-sized parking lot, ensuring privacy.
 
With a larger space, Stollman said more women can go in and out faster and freely.
 
“Depending on how many women are there per night, there’ll be very little waiting to be done,” she said. “People can come when they’re able to come without having to wait for someone to be in and out of the room, which is really tremendous because when you’re going, you want to be able to go, have a nice experience and then go home.”
 
Stollman hopes many women will take advantage of the new space just as she intends to.
 
“It’s wonderful that through the efforts of the community and the dollars that have been raised, we can offer this to the women of our community,” she continued. “It’s really what they deserve and what should be in any healthy, functioning community. We’re just so thrilled to be able to do it. 
 
“I think it will be yet another thing in the wonderfully growing community that will attract more people to move here and settle here. Just like the good schools, the synagogues, restaurants, the mikvah is really a key piece.” 
 
Contact: rkurland@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0737

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