On Tuesday, February 16, Chabad of South La Cienega (SOLA) hosted a speech by Rabbi Manis Friedman on the subject of “Mikvah and Marriage.” The lecture took place a block south of SOLA in the anticipated site of a new mikvah. A crowd of both men and women filled the hall beyond capacity. The Eiden Project initiative seeks to raise $10-12 million in funding for an elaborate women’s mikvah, as well as a separate men’s mikvah.
Hancock Park presently has four mikvaot serving its robust community, while Pico-Robertson only has one. The need for a new mikvah has been exacerbated by an expanding Jewish community in Pico-Robertson, which is steadily migrating southeast of La Cienega and Pico due to the greater affordability of housing in that section of the neighborhood.
As the Pico-Robertson community continues to flourish, so does the demand on the current mikvah. “How long should a woman wait before entering a changing room?” asked one of the female leaders of the community. “The mikvah needs to be as easy and as accessible to all no matter what levels of religiosity. When there is a long delay due to so many women using the facility – this could, G-d forbid, discourage them from taking on the mitzvah of mikvah or having them delay the mikvah immersion.”
With the full support of the present mikvah on Reeves Street, the goal is to increase convenience and decrease waiting times. “Since we moved here ten years ago from Brazil, it would not be an exaggeration to say that another 1000 mikvah-going families have moved to the area,” commented Rabbi Zajac, director of Chabad of SOLA. “Los Angeles is the third largest Jewish community in the world. Despite this, per ratio this is the least serviced area in the world in terms of having a mikvah…”
There are hopes that greater investment in the southeast Pico community will allow growing families who wish to buy property more affordable options. Instead of having to relocate to other communities on the East Coast due or in the Midwest, future property owners might consider the fact that homes just two blocks south of Airdrome are 35% cheaper than homes in the adjacent areas.
The mikvah entrance will be located off of Airdrome Avenue to afford the maximum amount of privacy. For those concerned with safety of the mikvah’s chosen destination, Rabbi Zajac observed that with the as the shomer Shabbat population rises in the neighborhood, the area will automatically become safer. “We were the first courageous few,” recalled Rabbi Zajac, “but we already broke through that five years ago. There is no doubt that now it’s much safer. Living here, we feel very safe.”
SOLA hosts both Lubavitch and Sephardic minyanim and has outgrown three locations over the past several years. Currently, the diverse congregation boasts many young couples, and the pressure expand its premises has increased yet again. SOLA hopes to relocate its synagogue and Montessori preschool to the new location in conjunction with the mikvah. “We are building a community center,” said Zajac. “We are starting with the mikvah, which is the central piece of that puzzle.”
In his address, Rabbi Friedman mused with humor that despite the frank incompatibility of men and women as a whole, adhering to the laws of mikvah transforms real love and marriage.
An anonymous woman, clearly moved by Rabbi Friedman’s talk, remarked while exiting the event, “I somewhat knew about the details of mikvah from the Tyra Banks show, but now that I’ve learned more, I really find the practice beautiful and want to apply it to my life when I get married to elevate the spirituality of our unity.” The easy-to-understand nature of Rabbi Friedman’s talk made the subject matter relevant to a varied crowd.
The first phase of the Eiden Project is estimated to be finished by the end of 2016. More information about the mikvah and the Eiden Project can be found on their website: TheEidenProject.org