MALDEN — That will soon change, when the beautiful spa-like Mikvah Mayanei Tovah is inaugurated November 10 at Congregation Beth Israel in Malden. Rabbis from throughout the Greater Boston area, as well as Malden city officials, are expected to attend the joyous celebration.
“We wanted to build a mikvah that’s beautiful and comfortable,” said Sam Goldberg, chairman of the mikvah construction committee. The upscale mikvah features two tiled preparation rooms, including one that is handicap accessible, a soaking spa tub, a full Jacuzzi for bathing, brushed copper fittings, a separate shower with glass doors, and the mikvah room.
The mikvah has been in the planning stages for 10 years, when preliminary fundraising was started. “We had nothing concrete, and we were getting wild estimates of over a million dollars,” Goldberg said. He credits CBI President Jay Lamport and Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Rabinowitz with lighting the fire by saying, “Let’s get moving, find the people, find the contractors and do the fundraising.”
Construction began in June 2011 in the synagogue’s ground-level basement, an area that was originally a community center with a swimming pool and its own private entrance. The swimming pool presented the first challenge, because the area to be excavated was inside the pool, and a mikvah cannot be within another container.
“We had to drill all the way through the other structure,” Goldberg said.
Matthew Garland, CBI executive director, worked closely with general contractor Peter Haven. “Our contractors were mostly local people who have done work for members of the congregation,” Garland said.
Throughout the construction, the committee relied on the expertise of consultant Elozor Raichik from Brooklyn, N.Y., who has built mikvahs all over the world. Rabbinical supervision was provided by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Katz of Brooklyn.
“Rabbi Katz told us he has never seen a mikvah that is so beautiful,” Garland said. At the end of construction, Katz inspected the mikvah and sealed everything, so no one has access until the inauguration, and he can say no one tampered with the collection of rainwater.
It was this rainwater collection system that provided a unique challenge for Malden’s diverse Jewish community. The mikvah must contain 40 seahs, or 126.5 gallons, of natural spring water or rainwater collected in a cistern, which then flows naturally into the mikvah. This is the amount of water that will cover the entire body of an average size person — 3 cubits long, by 1 cubit wide, by 1 cubit deep.
Orthodox and Chabad traditions differ on where these collection reservoirs must be located. Most Orthodox communities have the two collecting pools on the side of the mikvah, while Chabad communities have one underneath. The Malden mikvah meets the requirements of both groups. The reservoir beneath the mikvah has a Plexiglas cover so the waters can merge.
“This is symbolic of Malden,” said Goldberg’s wife, Ellen Zagorsky Goldberg. “The mikvah is part of the welcoming community of Malden.”
The total cost of the mikvah is about $350,000, of which $320,000 has been raised to date. A sizeable grant was given by Mikvah USA, but a large portion of the money raised has been from the CBI community.
“We also reached outside the community, primarily to people who have had a connection to Malden,” said Sam Goldberg.
Mikvah Mayanei Tovah, which means Wellsprings of Toby, is dedicated in the loving memory of Toby Sontag a’h, by Rabbi Chaim and Miriam Levovitz and family. Mrs. Sontag was the maternal aunt of Rebbetzin Rabinowitz, who said, “Her whole life was dedicated toward community and doing for other people.”
The Rebbetzin was in charge of the mikvah’s design. “My goal was that the mikvah should be a warm, welcoming place where people would say, ‘I want to come back next month,’” she said.
When the mikvah opens, Rebbetzin Rabinowitz will play a key role as the “mikvah lady,” who watches the immersion and ensures that the woman has been entirely covered in water. She also will train other women to become mikvah attendants.
Until November 10, the Jewish community of Malden is fervently praying for rain. They are very close to having enough natural rainwater to fill the collection pools of their beautiful new mikvah.
CBI has about 100 member families. “Our mikvah will be open to everyone, not just members of our community, or only Orthodox Jews,” concluded Rabbi Rabinowitz. “It is for all Jewish women to have the beautiful experience of the mikvah.”
The inauguration of Mikvah Mayanei Tovah will be Sunday, November 10, from 7-9 p.m. at Congregation Beth Israel, 10 Dexter St., Malden. Visit www.maldenmikvah.org.