"Jewish law says a mikvah is vital for a Jewish community to function. It is used to maintain laws of family purity, to which Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Jews typically adhere, as well as for conversions and major lifecycle events for those of all Jewish denominations.
“In the practice of our religion, building a mikvah is of the highest priority within a community,” said Schottenstein, a member of Congregation Torat Emet in Bexley. “You are commanded to build a mikvah before a synagogue or a school, therefore, we needed to be sure we had that as one of our top priorities.”
The mikvah housed in Beth Jacob served that need for a half-century thanks to the synagogue, community leaders and volunteers, said Rabbi Avi Goldstein of Beth Jacob.
“There’s very dedicated women, basically, who are running the mikvah, and the community really owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude,” he said.
It reached a point, however, where renovating the mikvah and addressing its age-related issues became financially unrealistic compared to building a new one.
The path to the new mikvah began with the tricky task of identifying a location where there wouldn’t be unsurmountable issues with zoning, where the project would be accepted by neighbors for whom mikvot may seem “bizarre” and where there is a reasonable level of privacy, said Devorah Lipkind Weprin, Columbus Community Mikvah co-chair.
Initially, the idea was for the mikvah to be in a house, Lipkind Weprin said. But when the location on East Main Street presented itself, those planning the project knew constructing a stand-alone building there was right.
Highlights of the mikvah include three immersion pools: one for women, one for men, both handicapped-accessible, and one for utensils. Women will have three changing rooms, a waiting room and a “beauty bar” at the new mikvah, which was designed by Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design in Columbus and constructed by Corna Kokosing Construction Company in Westerville.
While many communities around the country have separate mikvot for Orthodox and non-Orthodox communities, a unique aim is for the entire Columbus-area Jewish community to feel ownership over it and feel welcome using it, as it adheres to strict kashrut specifications.
While identifying the right location for the mikvah was an initial challenge, Schottenstein said bringing about increased awareness of the mikvah’s value to all segments of the community is an ongoing challenge.
“It’s a space for Jewish ritual, but it’s also a place of healing, restoration and a place of calm and where women can go at different times of their life,” she said."