Cambridge falls out over mikveh plans

By Simon Rocker, September 19, 2008
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Plans to build the first mikveh (ritual bath) in Cambridge have led to a rift among the trustees of the charity set up to support it.

One trustee, David Gilinsky, is trying to take his fellow trustees from the Cambridge Community Mikvah Charitable Trust to the London Beth Din, claiming that they are obstructing the project. Three years ago, Mr Gilinsky and his wife, Ofra, obtained planning permission to convert an outhouse into a mikveh at a Cambridge property which they have set up as Hama'ayan, "the Cambridge and Suffolk Jewish Community".

In the meantime, the local Chabad House (Lubavitch centre) has also been pursuing plans to construct a mikveh.

Now Mr Gilinsky wants the Beth Din to order the transfer of the CCMC Trust funds - more than £185,000, according to its 2003 accounts, the last available for inspection - to build the Hama'ayan mikveh.

"It has full planning permission to serve as a mikveh, with no limitation on numbers of users or hours of usage," said Mr Gilinsky. "It is detached. It is near where people live. It has off-street parking... It has existing utilities in place... It has been declared as eminently suitable by Dayan Gukovitzki of the National Council of Taharas Hamishpocho [family purity].

"No other location has mikveh planning permission, nor any likelihood of obtaining such permission," he added.

He said that the Hama'ayan mikveh proposal enjoyed "very substantial" support and would need around £170,000 to complete.

In his application for a Beth Din hearing, Mr Gilinsky made a number of allegations against his three fellow trustees, Charlotte Klein, Andrew Graham and Rabbi Abraham Gubbay, including "obstructing the building of a community mikveh in Cambridge".

However, a spokesman for the other trustees said: "None of the trustees has received communication from the Beth Din, or from Mr Gilinsky recently.

CCMCT remains absolutely committed to building a mikveh in Cambridge."

A representative of the Beth Din said it could not comment. 

In February, Cambridge City Council refused Chabad House a certificate of lawfulness - a way of approving minor building works without the need for planning permission. Instead, it will have to go through formal planning to secure permission for its mikveh. Rabbi Reuven Leigh, Chabad director, said this week: "I have the full intention of going ahead."

Barry Landy, an executive member of the Cambridge Traditional Jewish Congregation, said: "The community believes that the Chabad House proposal is superior and that's the one they support."

Cambridge has a resident Jewish population estimated at 850, plus several hundred students. A proposal several years ago to locate the mikveh by the Orthodox synagogue came to nothing when terms could not be agreed with the site's trustees.

    Last updated: 3:40pm, September 18 2008