It has taken me a few years to write the account of visiting an ancient mikve in Greece, as that experience is bound up in events that happened many years earlier. I’ll start at the beginning….
Rabbi Barry Freundel was the mesader kedushin (religious master of ceremonies) at my wedding in Washington, DC, in September 1990. He had taken up his new position as pulpit rabbi at Kesher Israel Congregation in 1989, and with his deep Jewish learning and forthright personality, was readily accepted as the leader by the young congregation.
I was just starting out on my path to observance when I came into contact with Rabbi Freundel. Freundel was a good teacher and Kesher Israel was an open, accepting community of young people like myself. The community was very welcoming, and many couples actually met and married through Kesher;my husband and I were perhaps the ninth or tenth couple that year alone. In our short two-year stay in Washington, we were involved in several community-oriented projects like the formation of a Learner’s Minyan, the revitalization of the chevra kadisha, and the creation of a women’s prayer group.
Most of the young couples we knew in DC are now dispersed around the US and Israel. We have all aged, raised children, moved on. We are still in touch with a fair number of our friends, but we’ve been out of touch with Kesher Israel and with Barry Freundel since our aliyah to Beer Sheva in 1991.
There was no mikveh in Washington, when we lived there. If we wanted to use a mikveh, we had to drive 20 minutes to Silver Spring, MD, park along a dark street, walk down a dark path, and knock on a dark locked door before gaining entrance into the hidden rooms that housed the mikveh. Attending the mikveh was by appointment only. Inside, the mikveh was warm and inviting. There were plush robes to wear and personal paper slippers. Women moved through rooms with little awareness of other women inhabiting other rooms. Everything was private and clean. Because of the distance, it was impossible to use the mikveh on Shabbat. If your day to immerse fell out on Friday night, you had to wait until Saturday night to fulfill the mitzvah.
This bears no resemblance to the experience of using a