Friday, September 5, 2008

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - First mikvah with a hydraulic lift

HALLANDALE BEACH - It's part of a Jewish ritual for married women — a monthly bath orthodox rabbis tout as a religious duty, but also a spiritual cleansing.

Yet in Hallandale Beach, Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus was hearing whispers that some orthodox women hadn't been participating in the mikvah.

The ones who have multiple sclerosis or other forms of paralysis found that getting in and out of the bath, which is shaped more like a sunken whirlpool than a tub, was too much of an ordeal.

"We've been informed in confidence that certain women have opted not to go to the mikvah because of the embarrassment," said Tennenhaus, executive vice president of Chabad of South Broward.

So the first mikvah with a hydraulic lift in the southeastern United States — and one of only a few in the world — could be completed within weeks. It will be the first mikvah of any kind in Hallandale Beach.

"Hydraulic lifts will really make it much more private and dignified," said Tennenhaus, whose synagogue will run the new $750,000 facility.

There are numerous mikvahs at synagogues in South Florida, including those in Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Weston, Plantation and Lauderhill.
But Rabbi Sholom Grossbaum said the only mikvahs he knows of with hydraulic lifts to accommodate the handicapped are in Jerusalem, Monsey, N.Y., and Brooklyn.

Grossbaum, of Minnesota, flew to Hallandale Beach last month to oversee some of the construction. He is a well-known mikvah consultant who makes sure the pools and buildings comport with religious codes. Recently he has traveled to Germany, France and Montana to check out facilities.

Hallandale's mikvah will include three pools: one for women who must immerse themselves after their menstrual period to resume sexual activity with their spouses, a men's mikvah and a community pool to cleanse kosher dishes and silverware, as required by Jewish law. "We knew of a need," Tennenhaus said of the special lift. "So we said when we do build a mikvah, let's do it right."

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