We hope to answer many of your questions. There will be further opportunities to learn more as a community.

 

WHY DO WE NEED A BUILDING CAMPAIGN AND HOW DID THE MIKVAH IDEA BECOME A PART OF IT?

The need for a building campaign to raise funds for our 20-year-old campus has been under discussion for some time. In 2017 Beth Israel engaged in a reserve study to assess needs over an extended period and to help gauge long-term costs. The plan was to launch the campaign in 2020, but the pandemic hit, and we needed to refocus our efforts to address more critical needs. The idea of a progressive mikvah re-emerged as an important need as well. The Board voted in the summer of 2023 to approve the campaign effort, inclusive of the mikvah idea.

 

WHAT IS A MIKVAH?

A mikvah is a pool of natural waters in which one immerses for a variety of reasons with the ultimate goals of renewal and transformation.

 

WHAT IS A PROGRESSIVE, MODERN MIKVAH?

In the 21st century, mikvah has become a renewed practice for progressive Jews throughout the United States who desire to use Jewish ritual to enhance their lives and enrich their spirituality.
The act of immersion allows the individual to play an active role in an individual’s own spiritual journey, and to repurpose ancient ritual in new and creative ways that are meaningful in the context of contemporary Jewish life.

 

WHO CAN IMMERSE IN A MIKVAH?
Mikvah immersion can be done by adults and children who are Jewish or who are converting to Judaism.

 

WHY DO PEOPLE IMMERSE?
Immersion in a mikvah marks a change in personal status for individuals. While many associate mikvah immersion with observance of the laws of ritual purity or as part of the process of conversion to Judaism, there are a variety of additional reasons for immersion:
• Celebrate milestone events like bar and bat mitzvah, graduation, a significant birthday, and anniversaries.
• Signify a new start in the aftermath of pain or trauma.
• Mark the end of a period of bereavement.
• Heal after miscarriage, chemotherapy, or assault.

 

WHY BUILD A MIKVAH AT A REFORM CONGREGATION?
A mikvah at a reform temple—open to all who identify as Jewish—fills a need in the San Diego community. The three mikva’ot that currently exist in San Diego are run under Orthodox auspices and are not available to non-Orthodox Jews. Beth Israel clergy must take individuals and families to a mikvah in Los Angeles for immersion or are required to use the Pacific Ocean, which can be cold, loud, and provide limited privacy. Regrettably, ocean immersions are potentially dangerous for babies, small children, the frail, disabled, or elderly.

 

WHY BUILD A MIKVAH AT BETH ISRAEL?
A mikvah at Beth Israel has been a dream of congregants for many generations. Inclusion of a mikvah at Beth Israel will enhance the temple’s role in the community as the central address of “All Things Jewish” in San Diego and beyond.

As the oldest and largest reform congregation in San Diego, we are uniquely positioned to take the lead as the most welcoming and inclusive congregation in the area.

 

WHY BUILD A MIKVAH NOW?
The opportunity to build a mikvah at this time has evolved due to the confluence of several factors.

• The only progressive mikvah in Southern California is in Los Angeles on the campus of the American Jewish University. With the impending sale of its campus, the AJU mikvah will likely cease to exist.
• Rabbi/Cantor Arlene Bernstein will serve as the spiritual advisor to the Beth Israel mikvah program. With her transition to a redefined, part-time role beginning in July 2024, Rabbi/Cantor Bernstein’s focus on pastoral care, life cycle events and teaching pairs naturally with her leadership in directing the mikvah program.
• Incorporating the construction of a mikvah into the building and restoration campaign allows Beth Israel to launch a single, coordinated campaign.

 

HOW MUCH WILL THE MIKVAH COST?
Current construction hard costs are estimated to be $3,600,000. Project soft costs –architectural and engineering fees, plus landscape design, insurance, furniture and equipment and contingencies – are estimated around $900,000.

 

HOW WILL BETH ISRAEL PAY FOR THE MIKVAH?
Beth Israel will pay for the mikvah construction from contributions received through its building campaign – Building for the Future. The Building for the Future campaign has a $12 million goal; 40% is related to the mikvah, and the remaining 60% is dedicated to building updates and refurbishments.

 

WILL MEMBERSHIP COMMITMENT REVENUE BE USED TO PAY FOR THE MIKVAH?
No, membership commitment revenue will not be used to pay for the mikvah.

 

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO BUILD THE MIKVAH?
Upon completion of the final drawing/permit phase, which takes up to 12 months, it is expected to take 12 months to complete the construction of the mikvah and adjacent areas.

 

IS THE MIKVAH ONLY FOR BETH ISRAEL MEMBERS?
While Beth Israel will maintain ownership and operational control of the mikvah, we plan to offer use of the mikvah to the greater San Diego Jewish community and beyond.

 

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO OPERATE THE MIKVAH ANNUALLY AFTER IT IS BUILT?
The proposed operating budget for the mikvah is expected to have a zero net impact on the temple once the program is established. Direct expenses, including staffing, programming and maintenance, which are currently projected to be around $50,000 a year, would be offset by fees and donations. The first three – five years of estimated mikvah operating costs, including management overhead, have been folded into the campaign total.

 

WILL BETH ISRAEL NEED TO BORROW MONEY TO BUILD THE MIKVAH?
The mikvah will be fully funded by donor contributions. During construction it may be necessary to secure a bridge loan to offset initial expenditures pending receipt of donor pledges which are sometimes paid over multiple years.

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