Pluralistic mikveh shuts down after burst pipe causes severe water damage

Mayyim Hayyim in Boston has been offering ritual baths since 2004


Photographs for Mayyim Hayim Web Site.

(JTA) — Mayyim Hayyim, a pluralistic community mikveh, or ritual bath, in Boston, is putting a pause on ritual immersions and classes after multiple pipes burst in the building’s laundry room, causing severe water damage.

The damage occurred after temperatures in the area dipped to -23 degrees celcius. Water from the pipes damaged the wood floors and furniture of the Victorian home that houses the mikveh, and part of a ceiling collapsed. Carrie Bornstein, CEO of Mayyim Hayyim, said in a video that the mikveh had taken precautions before the cold snap but was unable to prevent the damage.

The mikveh was on a waiting list for flood and mold remediation services, Bornstein said in the video, which was taken several days after the damage. She announced in a statement that the building remains closed while Mayyim Hayyim assesses the damage and makes repairs.

No reopening date has been set, and the earliest date people can schedule immersions on the mikveh’s website is Feb. 26.

“For an institution that exists to celebrate the transformative power of water, the impact is devastating,” Bornstein said. “In consultation with our insurance company, we are working hard to determine when we might reopen and will share news of our progress with you.”

Mayyim Hayyim opened in 2004 with the goal of reinventing ritual immersion, which Jewish law traditionally requires of married women, for contemporary spiritual life. The mikveh also aims to make ritual immersion accessible for a greater range of Jews and those seeking to convert.

Mayyim Hayyim houses two immersion pools, an education center and an art gallery that offers programming and events for adults and children. In 2019, Mayyim Hayyim celebrated its 20,000th immersion.

For Boston-area Jews who immerse ritually on a monthly basis, in keeping with Jewish tradition, the closure could be a significant interruption. Bornstein added in the statement that the organization’s “Mikvah Guides” have been in touch with people who had planned to use the mikveh, and were composing alternative rituals.

For now, the mikveh’s staff is working out of the Temple Reyim, the Conservative synagogue whose campus houses the mikveh as well as several other Boston Jewish institutions.

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