The rabbi and rebbetzin of San Francisco’s Chabad Richmond Torah Center sit together, facing the camera soberly.
“We’ve celebrated many Shabbats, holidays and lifecycle events together,” says Sara Hecht.
“But there’s one thing that we haven’t yet accomplished,” Rabbi Ahron Hecht chimes in. “We haven’t yet built a mikvah where men can actually use it on a daily basis.”
“You’re right, we haven’t done that!” agrees Sara Hecht.
The video, and the accompanying website, is part of a push to raise money for a new mikvah for men — mostly — that is being built at the Richmond Torah Center. It’ll be the only San Francisco mikvah designed for men to use on a regular basis.
The video features a series of Chabadniks proclaiming, “We need a mikvah!”
“For men, we’ve been denied that opportunity for a very long time,” Ahron Hecht said.
Hecht said that although submersion in the mikvah was not required for men, it was “optional-slash-recommended,” and he himself grew up using it as part of his daily routine before prayer. Without a local mikvah, he’s even used lakes and the ocean, which he calls “cold, and so on.”
The new mikvah won’t be the only mikvah in San Francisco; there’s one on Sacramento Street, run by the Mikveh Society of San Francisco, but it is primarily for women, with men needing to make special appointments. There are also mikvahs in the East Bay, Marin and Palo Alto.
Hecht said that 40 or 50 years ago, many Jews thought of a mikvah as archaic.
“You had to be really religious to use it,” he said.
But now, he said, people are learning to see the mikvah ritual as a beautiful element of religious practice that can be incorporated into daily life as a commitment to making the day spiritually more productive.
Immersion in a mikvah, he said, is “a rebirth and a rejuvenation and revival.”
The new mikvah will be available as a daily or weekly ritual for men, with set hours for women. But in order to build it, the center needs to raise $250,000. That will help fund the immersion pool itself, the men’s and women’s dressing rooms, lobby, playroom and outdoor deck and play area. They are two-thirds of the way there, and began construction on the pool in March.
But for now it’s still a hole in the ground. Still, the rabbi said he’s already looking forward to the day it’s done.
“We’re hoping in the end of the summer, for the Jewish New Year,” Hecht said. “We’re hoping we’ll have a beautiful mikvah available.”