fter closing its facility this past summer, the Mikvah of East Denver (MOED) has recently announced some remarkable developments. MOED closed its doors in August due to problems with its facility. The principal issue was its roof, which had suffered major damage and made the facility potentially unsafe. In October, the Mikvah Board began a $100,000 campaign to repair the Mikvah, dubbed the Raise the Roof Community Campaign. Initially, the Board's plan was to raise the money as quickly as possible and start the construction to repair their facility. Parallel to its fundraising, the Board embarked on an extensive fact-finding mission to investigate the problems with their structure. "The more we looked into it, the more problems we revealed," said MOED board member Ita Leban.
The investigation accelerated when, midway through the campaign, the Glassman Foundation extended a generous grant to MOED to fund the hiring of a "mikvah expert," a consultant with both halachic and practical expertise with construction issues unique to mikvahs. The mikvah expert would perform a complete appraisal of the damage to MOED's facility. The MOED Board asked local resident, Rabbi Eliyahu Stern, who had previously served as construction consultant to eight other mikvahs, to spearhead the assessment.
After his initial evaluation, Rabbi Stern brought in Rabbi Isaac Trieger, a renowned expert who has been involved in the construction of several hundred mikvahs worldwide. Rabbi Trieger's inspection revealed that the Mikvah facility had far more extensive problems than was originally thought and that it would not be financially feasible to repair it for permanent use. They recommended that the current facility be repaired and made safe for short-term use, but strongly advised that the community build an entirely new mikvah facility. The old facility would be in use just until the new Mikvah is complete, an estimated two to three years. The MOED Board concurred. "Local Mikvah usership is growing by leaps and bounds, due to successful outreach and the expansion of the Jewish community in Denver," said MOED Board member Nahum Swinkin. "We cannot afford to be without a mikvah on the East Side of Denver for the amount of time that it will take to build a new facility. We decided that if we could fix the Mikvah and make it safe for a reasonable amount of money, we had a community obligation to do so."
The new Mikvah is going to have a new name, a new location, and a new Halachic authority.
The name of the Mikvah will change as a result of the involvement of a new MOED major donor, Art Harris. "Art has recently become an ardent supporter of our Mikvah," says MOED Board member Laura Abramson-Pritchard, "and we are proud to have him as a major benefactor. He's chosen to create a legacy for his family by funding an endowment for the Mikvah to help ensure the future of the organization, and he will also participate substantially in its construction." The new Mikvah facility will be named the Harris Family Mikvah of East Denver.
The current Mikvah facility is located on a plot that was leased to the Mikvah on a long-term basis. The new Mikvah will be built on a different site. "We are researching different possibilities for the new Mikvah's location," said Board member Aryeh Fischer, "though we are anxious to begin the process of construction, so we don't have the luxury of taking too much time. Ideally, since the new Mikvah construction will be an investment in our community for the future, we would like to relocate it to a plot of land that we own and control outright, in a location that makes sense." The Board has assigned a committee task force the job of researching possibilities for new sites.
The departure of the MOED's Halachic Committee was a joint decision by the three rabbinical authorities involved. All three are Jewish community leaders who are each embarking on challenging ventures this year.
Rabbi Dr. Hillel Goldberg, a senior editor of the Intermountain Jewish News and already a prolific published author, is immersed in writing a book on the laws and philosophy connected to the institution of mikvah. Rabbi Daniel Alter, currently the Rabbi at the East Denver Orthodox Synagogue (EDOS), has accepted a new position as head of school at the Denver Academy of Torah (DAT). Rabbi Yaakov Meyer, the Rabbi at Aish/AhavasYisroel, is planning on building a new shul facility to accommodate the burgeoning Jewish community in Southeast Denver. "All of us are facing exciting challenges this year, and we felt that since the Mikvah was being given a brand new face, it was time for a change in the Halachic Committee as well," states Rabbi Alter.
Ted Zvi Gelt, president of MOED's Board, commented: "As the current Halachic Committee's term comes to an end, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to them for all of their efforts on behalf of MOED." The Mikvah's new halachic authority will be Rabbi Isaac Trieger.
MOED is kicking off a capital campaign for its new facility, which is estimated to cost in the area of $500,000. The Board has already raised $85,000 of its original Raise the Roof $100,000 goal and it intends to apply the money toward the building of the new Mikvah as well as the short-term repair of the old Mikvah. "Before we knew the extent of the facility damage, the goal of the Raise the Roof campaign was to overhaul the current facility," explains Board member Devorah Friedman. "After the assessment by Rabbi Trieger, we know that this is no longer a real option. By shifting our goal to a capital campaign for a new facility, we are keeping our objective the same as it was eight months ago: to open a Mikvah on the East Side of Denver with Torah and outreach values, and to support the mitzvah of Taharat HaMishpacha (Family Sanctity) in Denver. Since our campaign objectives are the same, we've decided to keep calling it the Raise the Roof Community Campaign. We still need to raise the roof, only this roof is going to be raised over a brand new beautiful, functional, safe Mikvah."
The MOED Board is optimistic and excited about its decisions. "It's been a year of incredible challenges for MOED," says Gelt. "We have restructured and revamped our Board and our leadership. We have struggled with the difficult decision to repair the old facility while we build a new one, and we firmly believe that this is the best decision that we could have made for our community. We urge the community to help us to meet our new goals and for everyone to participate in building the most important institution in the Jewish community."