With the nearest Mikva over 900 miles away, Newfoundland shluchim Rabbi Chanan and Tuba Chernitsky have made building a Mikva a top priority.
By Rabbi Chanan and Tuba Chernitsky
The moment the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean hit me, I knew we urgently needed to build a Mikvah.
Five years ago we made our first visit to Newfoundland with the hopes of being able to bring Yiddishkeit to the Jews there. There was no kosher food, or chinuch available there. Most importantly there was no Mikvah. This did not discourage us. We moved a short while later and immediately began getting to know the community. We started children’s programs, hosted Shabbat meals and began planning how we could build a Mikvah.
We quickly discovered that in addition to the small population of Jews, there are many Jewish tourists.
Building a Mikvah has been an important goal of ours. We thoughtfully bought our first home with the plan of building a Mikvah into it. Then came our first bump in the road: we could not legally build there since the backyard had electric lines running over it.
Newfoundland is a small island off the northeast coast of Canada. The nearest Mikvah is over 900 miles away. Spending a day or two away from home was a sacrifice for the whole family – but it was a sacrifice we made. I would travel for hours each way with a little baby while my husband took care of our other children at home. I knew this was not a long-term solution, and certainly not at all for the tourists or community we support.
One day a woman visiting Newfoundland contacted us to ask if we had a Mikvah. We are here solely to provide people with their Jewish needs, but it was winter and the ocean was unusable. There was nothing we could do for her. She was not the last one who we could not help.
We knew we needed a Mikvah so our next step was to find out if we could build one in our house. After some back and forth we came to terms with the fact that there was just no place for it to fit. We realized we would have to buy a whole new property. We would need a lot of help from Above to ever realize our dream of providing the Jews in Newfoundland with access to this essential mitzvah. We knew this would be a challenging and costly undertaking and we had no idea where to start.
Then Covid hit. Canada was locked down. Newfoundland became a bubble of its own. There was no way to travel anymore. I had no other choice. The moment the icy waters of the Atlantic ocean hit me, I knew we desperately needed to build a Mikvah.
Winter was fast approaching and even the turbulent ocean would soon be completely unusable. We searched for a house for sale where we could build a Mikvah. We finally found the right one. Within the next few weeks, we saw the kindness of Hashem and the kindness of people across the world. Generous donors from around the world helped us raise over $200,000. This meant we could purchase the property and cover the costs of all the preliminary steps including an architect, interior designer, engineers, rabbinical oversight, and the down payment for our contractor.
With gratitude, we purchased the house and excitedly began working on the design. Finally, the plans were finished and around Chanukah, we called in the contractor. He took one look at the design and told us that he couldn’t build anything with it. The design was missing too much detail.
We were so close, yet so far.
We engaged a team of engineers again. We worked consistently with them and Rabbinic authorities. We were challenged again and again by rising prices and worldwide building supply shortages.
Over the summer we received two requests to use a Mikvah. Two tourists who unexpectedly needed a Mikvah during their vacation were asking for help. Unfortunately, all we could do was direct them to the frigid ocean.
There are people depending on us in order to do this mitzvah. We knew we could not give up. That summer the plans were finalized, the timeline was finished, and the complete budget was broken down. In order to complete the rest of the Mikvah, we now need to raise $125 000.
Winter is approaching quickly. Once the ground freezes all construction stops. This is not something that can wait another year. So this past week we held the groundbreaking of a Mikvah yet to be fully financed.
We are almost there.
With the help of Hashem, and the help of yourselves this Mikvah can finally be completed.
You can help all those who reach out to us looking for a way to keep this mitzvah and have nowhere to go.
You can help S. John’s, Newfoundland and the surrounding hundreds of miles have a mikvah of their own.
Please help make this a reality.
Estimated completion date: Chanukah 2022 / 5783