After more than half a century with no rabbi, no Jewish school or kosher butcher in town, Canberra’s 2000 Jews are beginning to see change.
One of the first projects that Rabbi Dan and Naomi Avital launched when they opened a Chabad center in Australia’s capital city, in March 2009, was the construction of a mikvah. For a community that has been lacking the basics, says Rabbi Avital, it’s imperative to start from the beginning.
“A mikvah is what a Jewish community needs most. It’s the first thing that must be built. That’s the foundation and it’s essential for the infrastructure of a Jewish community.”
For local women who were making the three hour trip to Sydney for the nearest mikvah, Canberra’s new mikvah will make life a whole lot easier. What’s more, the Avitals expect that many additional women for whom the three hour trip was too much, will also begin using Mikvah Chaya Mushka Canberra. Naomi Avital, director of Mikvah Chaya Mushka who will be teaching classes on the laws and traditions of the mikvah, says that 15 women have already expressed an interest using the mikvah.
“By exploring the spirituality and importance of the mikvah in the new classes, we’ll hope to remove stereotypes and any fears about the mikvah,” she says.
The new mikvah will be formally opened in February by US Ambassador Jeff Bleich. The elegant, state-of-the-art ritual bath was co-sponsored by Eliezer Kornhauser, a Melbourne based developer and a major supporter of Chabad activities in Canberra.