After years of planning and fundraising, a February groundbreaking is anticipated for the new community women’s mikveh in Squirrel Hill, with completion projected in about a year.
“We are really excited,” said Judi Kanal, the chair for the committee of the new mikveh. “We are closing in on our fundraising goal, we passed our audit with flying colors, and we are moving forward with our bank loan.”
The fundraising committee currently is only about $100,000 shy of its $1.8 million goal, according to Kanal.
“It’s a miracle how much money we raised,” she said.
The mikveh will be located on the site of the former ZOA house at 6334 Forbes Ave. The building has been razed, and a new structure, designed by Stuart Horne of Seigle, Solow & Horne Architects, will be erected in its place.
While final plans are not complete, some criteria have already been established.
“It will be a one-floor building,” Kanal said, “and it will have a very warm, inviting environment. We hope to have a spa feeling to it.”
The building will house six preparation rooms, and two mikvehs, both of which will be handicap accessible.
A mikveh is a ritual bath, most commonly used by Jewish women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation and childbirth. It is also used for conversion to Judaism. Others use a mikveh to kasher utensils and cookware. Some Jewish men also go to a mikveh to achieve ritual purity.
Separate mikvehs exist in Squirrel Hill for women, men and utensils.
The Pittsburgh Jewish community has had a mikveh since the late 1800s. The first one was located in the Hill District, in a community building, and remained there until 1947 when a new one was built in Oakland. The Oakland mikveh served Pittsburgh Jewish women until the late 1960s when the current ritual bath was constructed in Squirrel Hill.
Malka Markovic, who has served as the mikveh matron for 26 years, will be retiring once the new facility is open, Kanal said.
“We are sorry to see her go,” she added. “We will miss her.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)