Inspiring

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Transf­­­­­­orming the mikvah from a mere ritual location into a hub that celebrates, empowers and enhances Jewish womanhood by combining resources for body, mind and soul.

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Rejuvenating

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Combining a clean welcoming and beautiful mikvah with spa, gym and beauty facilities.

Enriching

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Providing the resources that women need to help them meet their assorted needs.

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By Lani Lederer Berman

Women in the HolocaustSzydlowiec, Poland, Jewish women and children living in a ghetto yard. Yad Vashem Photo Archive

On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, The Eden Center wishes to salute the courage and heroism of women during the Shoah, when Jewish existence was threatened both physically and spiritually. Though this blog is not an exhaustive examination of the topic, it is meant to join the conversation in an attempt to pay respect to those who endured the suffering and thereby fought for the physical and spiritual survival of our nation.

The story of the 93 young women, all students of Sarah Schenirer, who took their own lives rather than be subject to rape at the hands of the Nazis is well known:

“We are girls between 14 and 22 years of age…Yesterday and the day before we were given warm water to wash and we were told that German soldiers would visit us this evening. Yesterday we all swore to die. Today we were all taken out to a large apartment with four well-lit rooms and beautiful beds. The Germans don’t know that this bath is our purification bath before death…”1a

Over the years, this story has been both sensationalized and discredited as historically inaccurate by many scholars and by institutions such as Yad Vashem. Judith Baumel and Rabbi Dr. JJ Schacter, who have studied stories of Jewish martyrdom, conclude that this story is  “an archetype, one of the most

by Lani Lederer Berman

Letter of thanks for Heating Mikveh in Lodz Ghetto from Estehr Farbstein's Hidden Thunder

Letter of Thanks from the Lodz rabbis for heating the mikveh waters. Ginzach Kiddush Hashem, Farbstein Hidden in Thunder p. 334

Throughout history, the mikvah has stood at the very core of religious Jewish life and practice, and said to protect the Jewish people both physically and spiritually. It is therefore fitting on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, to explore some of the discourse surrounding mikvah during the Holocaust, when Jewish existence was threatened in both these realms. Though this piece is not an exhaustive examination of the topic, it is meant to join the conversation in an attempt to pay respect to those who endured the suffering and thereby fought for the physical and spiritual survival of our nation.

The Nazis understood the importance of the mikvah. Rabbinic responsa record that in many places, specifically in the ghettos,1 the Nazis banned the use of the mikvah and closed them down. They prevented Jews from immersing for any reason, and thereby largely prevented women from keeping the laws connected to family purity. This raised serious questions regarding the propriety of a halakhic marriage. In The Oneg Shabbat Archives,2 which chronicled the lives of Jewish people in the Warsaw Ghetto, Rabbi Yehoshua Moshe Aronson notes that after the Nazi invasion, the mikvaot were closed in the Warsaw Ghetto. This led him and others to worry that “the consecration of married life would be marred by impurity.”3

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