BY DEBORAH MOON
Rachel’s Well Community Mikvah has reopened for immersions following the safety guidelines set out by Governor Brown.
“We are welcoming conversions and other commanded and time-bound immersions at Rachel’s Well at this time,” says mikvah manager Caron Blau Rothstein.
Owned by the Jewish Federation of Portland with ritual supervision provided by the Oregon Board of Rabbis, the community mikvah is open to all who self-identify as Jewish.
“Renewal and rebirth is the essence of mikvah,” says Rabbi Tzvi Fischer, who chairs the OBR committee that supervises the mikvah. “To have it reopen is so vital, and I’m impressed with the amount of work put in to do so in a safe way.”
One woman who was able to immerse to complete her conversion in time for her son’s bar mitzvah was very grateful.
“Rabbi (Rachel) Joseph and I had no idea that we would run into a time crunch when we started talking about visiting the mikvah last year,” says Tiffany. “The experience was very moving and emotional. The space is perfect, and I am so grateful for such a nice mikvah to complete my conversion journey.”
A mikvah is a Jewish ritual bath fed by natural waters and traditionally used to mark transitions such as conversions or from workweek to Shabbat or holiday and to observe the laws of family purity. Contemporary uses include marking milestones or transitions of all sorts. However, under health restrictions during the COVID pandemic, only religiously mandated immersions are being scheduled.
“Mikvah is traditionally a focal point of the Jewish community and to have it available for the community is wonderful,” says Rabbi Fischer. “The mikvah has many uses, but not all are available right now. We are trying to minimize the number of people and protect those whose observance needs this.”
For instance, as a mohel, Rabbi Fischer says he has customarily immersed in the mikvah before doing a bris. “It is not a necessary use, therefore it is not available for me right now,” he says. “I understand and appreciate that.”
He notes mikvah is especially important to women who go monthly following their menstrual cycle as part of their observance of Taharat HaMishpacha, the laws of family purity.
“Thankfully in our community Mikvah Shoshana remained open for women who need it for this important traditional use of the mikvah,” he says.
But he adds that the reopening of Rachel’s Well is important for the growing community who have become regular users there.
All immersions are still by appointment only. People should email firstname.lastname@example.org to request an appointment a minimum of 4-7 days in advance and longer if possible.
For more information and reopening protocols, including the need to prepare at home, visit jewishportland.org/mikvah