Two Shluchim in remote communities have joined forces – and taken the frum world by storm.
A cursory look at the frum media this week reveals a fascinating story of the efforts to build two mikvaos – one in Idaho and one in Wyoming. In an amazing tale of hashgacha pratis, the two mikvaos will be named after Yossi Kohn a”h, a Mir Yeshiva bochur who was tragically killed in Meron last year.
We reached out to the two Shluchim involved to get a behind-the-scenes perspective. Here’s what we learned.
Yossi Kohn’s mother, Mrs. Chaya Gitty Kohn of Cleveland, was searching for a meaningful project to take on l’iluy nishmas her son. Through a remarkable series of events she decided to throw her support – and indefatigable energy – behind the efforts to build two mikvaos, one in each of the last two remaining states in the Western USA without a mikvah.
While she could have chosen from many different projects, it is a true Kiddush Lubavitch that she was touched by these two Shluchim families and gave them the opportunity to create a lasting legacy for her precious Yossi’s neshama.
Rabbi Mendel Lifshitz and his wife Esther have been on Shlichus in Boise, Idaho for 18 years. In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Rabbi Zalman and Raizy Mendelsohn have devoted their lives to the community since 2007.
And yet, they each have the challenge of a ten-hour round-trip visit to the nearest mikvah.
“When a woman in our community heard that she will need to fly or travel for so long to use the mikvah, her enthusiasm for this mitzvah plummeted, and her observance did as well,” Rebbetzin Esther Lifshitz shared. “We desperately need to build these mikvaos.”
The campaign to build these two mikvaos, with a Vaad including Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, has garnered the support of a wide spectrum of Yidden.
“The boros tevila of our mikvaos are dedicated by Chesky Schlesinger, a Skulener Chosid,” Rabbi Mendelsohn said. “A noted philanthropist in the Yeshiva world, Ralph Herzka, has lent his considerable support. And, Yoeli Philip, a Viener Chosid in Monsey, is a driving force to get these mikvaos built.
“And, now 45 bochurim in the Mir Yeshiva have rallied their friends and family in a remarkable grass-roots effort to raise funds in memory of their beloved friend Yossi a”h.”
These two Shluchim are pioneers in breaking new ground, with Yidden of all walks of life participating in their campaign.
Still, many Shluchim face a similar challenge. From Salem, Oregon to Iowa City, Iowa, dozens of Shluchim still don’t have a mikvah nearby.
Rabbi Raphael Kats, Shliach in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan noted that an effort last year to raise funds for remote mikvaos created a stir in the Lubavitch community. And, it shed light on a mikvah crisis in Lubavitch.
Dozens of Shluchim live with current-day mesiras nefesh, in cities far from a mikvah.
Their challenge has not gone unnoticed. Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, has stepped up to address this crisis. At the recent International Kinus Hashluchim he announced that Chabad Lubavitch Headquarters would undertake to fund seed money for 120 mikvaos, in honor of the Rebbe’s 120th year.
As a result, the Global Mikvah Project was established.
The Global Mikvah Project has awarded each of these two Chabad institutions with a grant toward their mikvaos. They are among the many that will hopefully be helped by this new fund.
Klal Yisroel has come together to solve the crisis for these two communities. Many Shluchim and Anash have joined in support.
An anonymous lead donor to the mikvaos was so taken by the campaign that he declared, “This needs to be the catalyst to get other mikvaos built for Shluchim.”
Rabbi Kotlarsky has begun the process. As a result of this campaign’s widespread support in the frum community, the conversation shifts to solving this crisis for Shluchim worldwide. Hopefully, this story helps move the process forward.
“We are humbled at the support. In particular, we are touched at the numerous Shluchim – many of who do not have a mikvah in their own Makom Hashlichus – that have stepped up in support,” Rabbi Lifshitz states. “And we are driven to complete this project as soon as possible. We are ready to break ground. Please help us cross the finish line.”