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After Two Years of War, Kyiv Chabad Dedicates New Mikvah

As Ukraine marked the grim two-year anniversary of war in February, 2022, the Chabad Jewish community in Kyiv marked a very different milestone. Hundreds of local Jewish women celebrated the opening of a brand-new mikvah in Kyiv—a turning point in the recovery of this city’s Jewish community.

While Kyiv’s Right Bank has long boasted a large Jewish community, the City’s Left Bank was relatively underserved, until Rabbi Mordechai and Devorah Levenharts moved there in 1998. They established “Simcha,” a community infrastructure with a synagogue, preschool and grade school, and social services for the neighborhood’s 20,000 Jews.  

“When we opened our Chabad house, we quickly recognized the immense need for a mikvah,” Devorah Levenharts told The nearest mikvah is across the river—a long drive during the evening rush-hour traffic, and impossible to get to on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, when crossing the river is not permitted by Jewish law.

Construction on the mikvah began in 2020, and just as itwas nearing completion, everything ground to a halt: war had broken out.

“Our Chabad center was inundated with nearby families, who sheltered with us in the building’s cellar as explosions echoed in the streets of Kyiv,” Levenharts described. “As the fighting drew nearer and food ran low, we made the difficult decision that we needed to evacuate.”

The Levenhartses led a caravan of vehicles westward, toward the border. After a 24-hour ordeal, they reached the city of Iași, Romania, where a rescue flight coordinated by Chabad flew the evacuees to Israel.

Not all of the residents were able to leave, and for them, Simcha Center remained open and functional.

“A local community member took responsibility for managing the center, and the center hosted Purim and Passover celebrations while we were away.”

When the Levenharts family returned in May, 2022, workers were gone and construction materials had been diverted to the war effort or simply weren’t available. Eventually, they managed to complete construction and finally open the mikvah

“Immersing in the mikvah is such a special moment for a Jewish woman,” said Shifra Rybchenko, one of the dozens of community members looking forward to using the new mikvah. “I am overjoyed and thankful that our community finally has a mikvah of our own.”

Rybchenko—and hundreds of other women—gathered for a tour of the mikvah, followed by a sit-down dinner and celebration at the Chabad center. 

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