In South India, One of the Most Exclusive Mikvehs in the World

In South India, One of the Most Exclusive Mikvehs in the World

During our Shabbat in India, Rabbanit Elisheva Goldschmidt of Cochin’s 500-year-old Paradesi synagogue mentioned to me that there is a functioning mikveh in Cochin. I was surprised to hear that, considering that other necessities of Jewish life are hard to come by there- i.e., kosher food, a minyan even for Torah readings.
So I asked Elisheva, who doubles as the local mikveh lady if she could take me to see the mikveh. And she generously agreed. I was surprised, again, when I discovered that the Cochin mikveh is one of the more beautiful mikvehs I’ve seen. Small but tastefully designed. A precious gem for local Jewish women and travelers.

Elisheva standing in entrance-way to the mikveh.

The mikveh was built in 2011 by Cochin’s Chabad shluchim at the time,  Rabbi Zalman and Shaindy Berenstein. Before the Berensteins raised the $45,000 necessary and undertook construction of the mikveh, the nearest mikveh had been 1387 kilometers away, requiring a 54-hour train-ride back and forth!

2 unusual things about the Cochin Mikveh. Among the universal mikveh supplies of soap, nail scissors, and nail polish remover I noticed something I’ve never seen before at any mikveh– complimentary mosquito repellent, so women who’ve dunked can shpritz themselves before heading home so they (IY”H) can make it home bite-free.
And another EXTREMELY unusual thing about the Cochin mikveh is that it serves approximately ONE WOMAN a month.
That means that the Berensteins went to all this effort, and Rabbanit Elisheva and her husband Rabbi Yonatan still do, for a mikveh that serves around only a dozen women a year. For comparison’s sake, my neighborhood mikveh serves around a dozen women every HALF HOUR!
The existence of the Cochin mikveh, and all the hard work that has gone into building and maintaining it for such a tiny number of women, reminds me that mikveh is one of the most important mitzvot around, preserving the sanctity of our marriages and homes and thus the entire Jewish people. What a privilege that this mitzvah rests in our hands.

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