“A mikveh is the most vital institution in Jewish life. It takes precedence over the building of a synagogue or the writing of a Torah scroll.”
With these words, guest speaker Mrs. Rivkah Slonim began her keynote address to the large crowd of men and women from every spectrum of the Jewish community, who attended the grand opening ceremonies for the new Mei Menachem/Sterling Mikveh, in Richmond, Virginia, last Sunday morning.
Fusing mystical and practical arguments and speaking with startling candor, Slonin made a most compelling case for the observance of mikveh as a cornerstone of Jewish observance and indeed Jewish continuity. Richmonder Shlomo Pereira, a Professor of history at The College of William & Mary, commented that he “left the room more convinced than ever that Jewish continuity begins at conception.”
Three years in the making, the Mei Menachem/Sterling Mikveh, incorporates the latest in spa-like design and attention to detail, including the lavish use of Jerusalem stone. “Every care was taken in its design to ensure that the women using it for the important mitzvah of taharat hamishpacha (family sanctity) will find it aesthetically appealing and spiritually uplifting” said Mrs. Nechomi Kranz, mikveh director.
“I feel like I’m in King Solomon’s palace” noted Judith Mehl, a Richmond high school guidance counselor, as she took the mikveh tour during the grand opening ceremonies.
The mikveh is named in tribute to Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, and was sponsored in part by Avrohom and Gittie Bistritsky and family of New York.
The mikveh was dedicated last Sunday by Mrs. Deborah Sterling, in memory of her late husband Larry Sterling, a man whose munificence, humor, faith and generosity endeared him to the Richmond Jewish community.
The event was the precursor for a spate of educational programs aimed at reaching out to the Jewish families in Richmond, Charlottesville and surrounding areas with vitally needed information about the mitzvah of mikveh which is, according to Slonim, “one of the most misunderstood of all the commandments.”