Congregation Beth Solomon in Northeast Philadelphia is planning to open a mikvah to serve its own congregation and beyond.
Leaders of the Orthodox community held a groundbreaking ceremony for the ritual bath on Sunday.
The mikvah, scheduled to be completed by September, will cost an estimated $400,000 and is being constructed to serve the tens of thousands of Jews in Lower Moreland and the surrounding area, which straddles Huntingdon Valley and the Northeast, according to the general manager of the synagogue community center, Rochel Duskis.
Currently, the area’s nearest mikvah is run by the Lubavitch on Castor Avenue and is a 15- to 20-minute drive away from Congregation Beth Solomon, Duskis estimated. That makes it fairly inaccessible to those who choose to frequent it on a consistent basis or on Shabbat, when driving is prohibited by Jewish law.
The groundbreaking ceremony was set in motion in January when two active community members, Shasha Tamarkin and Ahron Rosenfeld, approached the synagogue’s CEO,
Rabbi Shloime Isaacson, with the idea to build a new mikvah, Duskis said. Rosenfeld wrote out a $1,000 check on the spot and shortly after, Mikvah USA, a nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn that helps communities build mikvahs, agreed to put up some of the initial funds to get the project rolling, as well as to recommend architects and engineers for the design.
“The first thing in a new community is supposed to be a mikvah — even before a synagogue — but we just weren’t there,” when the community first came into being 30 years ago, said Rabbi Akiva Pollack, the synagogue’s educational director. With a community that has grown religiously, coinciding with the introduction of a Kollel at the synagogue eight years ago, “now we’re saying, ‘You know what, we’ve got to do this.’ ”
So far, Duskis said, the community, which draws a large Russian crowd, has raised $100,000 of the funds needed to complete the project. The congregation is hoping private donations will help organizers meet their goal.
Some 50 people attended the groundbreaking and the community is planning a blowout celebration once the mikvah is completed. “No one’s interesting in waiting” to get the project started, Duskis said. “We’re just going to do it now — it’s very exciting for the community.”