The Little Mikveh That Could

Our Greater Hartford area has many Jewish communal organizations of varying sizes, denominations, and functions. Of these, Federation partner Mikveh Bess Israel is one of the smallest. However, while this organization — which provides the Jewish community with a safe and sacred space for cleansing and purification — may be small, it is also mighty. Below, Leslie Adler, Mikveh Bess Israel’s Board Vice-President, shares the determination that drove their mikveh to remain open safely, providing vital services to our Jewish community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Mikveh Bess Israel is one of the smallest entities in the local Jewish landscape, its role could not be more important. It is said that a new community should have a mikveh, even if there is not a synagogue or Jewish school.

In 2020, while the COVID-19 pandemic caused prolonged closures of schools, synagogues, and businesses, normal daily life seemed to change overnight — instead replaced by a surreal sense of heightened fear and anxiety. Nonetheless, dedicated rabbis and others in the community identified ways Mikveh Bess Israel could remain open and operational, while ensuring safety was a top priority. Together, we formulated a plan to continue our work as a safe and sacred place for ritual immersion.

Similar to the ethos of “The Little Engine That Could,” by Watty Piper, there was a sense of determination that Mikveh Bess Israel should, could, and would continue to fulfill our essential role. We thought it could happen; and simply put, it did.

Yes, it took time, effort, and a great deal of commitment — but with each step forward, we thought back to the classic children’s book quote: "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.”

If one believes in something enough, one can will it — and that’s exactly what transpired at Mikveh Bess Israel. Through it all, we built it, and they came!

Click here to learn more about Mikveh Bess Israel’s work.