New Louisiana community mikvah nears opening

After a long process, the board of the Louisiana Community Mikvah announced that the Oscar J.Tolmas Louisiana Community Mikvah will be in operation in a matter of weeks.

“Punch List” items to finish the project are being addressed. The new website with information about the mikvah, along with options for making appointments, payments and donations is being finalized.

Planning for the facility has involved every Jewish congregation in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas, with the building specifications done so the mikvah would be acceptable to all groups. It was constructed behind Shir Chadash in Metairie.

After former Beth Israel Rabbi Uri Topolosky pushed the Rabbinic Council toward establishing a community mikvah, the project was announced in 2017, with groundbreaking taking place in 2021. Supply chain issues and labor shortages during the pandemic lengthened the process.

In April 2022, three Torah scrolls from Shir Chadash that had been damaged in Hurricane Ida were buried under the walkway into the mikvah, so the path to the mikvah is infused with holy words.

Rabbi Robert Loewy, vice president of the mikvah board, said people are already reaching out to Mikvah Manager Jennifer Fertel and board members, to see when they can start using the facility. Many rabbis are looking to use it in the conversion process, while other are seeking to fulfill Jewish traditions.

He said one of the creative uses for the mikvah is anticipated when members of Avodah will mark the conclusion of their year of service in New Orleans by immersing themselves in the mikvah waters. “These are all the kinds of activities imagined for our community,” he said.

While the project has mainly been for the congregations involved in the mikvah’s planning, the board sees this as a resource for the entire region. The board consists of representatives from all Jewish congregations in Greater New Orleans and Baton Rouge, led by President Rochelle Adler Effron.

News about the unofficial opening, along with information on scheduling appointments and the date for a formal community event dedicating the mikvah will be released soon.