Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rural Jewish communities in America's past

Today I read an article about a part-wood part-concrete/stone 19th century mikveh excavated in rural Connecticut. A mikveh is a ritual bath used by Orthodox, or religiously observant, Jews to observe several commandments. While the mikveh is a common find among Orthodox communities in urban areas, it is virtually non-existent in rural communities. For example, our synagogue, Ahavas Sholom, was home to a Reform Jewish congregation and does not have a mikveh. In fact, many congregations that ventured out beyond the comforts of large urban areas like New York City, Boston, and Chicago were Reform congregations and did not observe many of the ritual commandments in the Torah. 

However, the congregation in Old Chesterfield, CT must have been Orthodox. Archaeologists recently found a mikveh- quite possibly the only mikveh in existence in rural America. It is a physical wake up call to scholars that not all rural congregations in America were Reform. If you are interested in reading more about this archaeological find, take a look at the article "Overlooked Chapter of Jewish History" on University of Connecticut's website. 

 

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