Living Jewishly deep in the Amazon jungle has its fair share of
challenges, acknowledges Tatiana Azulay, whose husband, Dr. Rafael Azulay,
practices medicine in Manaus, Brazil, the incongruous pocket of old Europe
surrounded by thick rain forest.
no kosher grocery, no Jewish day school and not
too many Jewish toddlers for my almost 2-year-old to socialize with, says the
São Paolo native, who followed her Manaus-born husband to his hometown around
two years ago. But the Raichmans do an amazing job at making Judaism easier,
meaningful and exciting for our small community, she says, referring to Rabbi
Arieh and Dvorah Lea Raichman, co-directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of
Manaus since 2009.
Yet one area
of Jewish life that has remained challenging is mikvah, the married womans monthly immersion in a pool of
naturally collected water that is the bedrock of Jewish family life.
For much of the
communitys historystretching back to the late 19th-century rubber boomthey
functioned without a specially constructed mikvah.
We were told that people
used the Amazon River, says Dvorah Lea Raichman, but thats not practical for
a number of reasons. First of all, the only time to get any privacy is at
night, and some stretches of the river are shared with black caimans, snakes,
piranhas and other unfriendly surprises.
There are also halachic difficulties since rainwater is only
valid for a mikvah if the water is contained, unlike the mighty, gushing
Amazon. Thus, a prospective mikvah-goer would need to boat out to the middle of
the wide river in order to immerse in what is assumed to be spring water,
kosher even while moving.
Azulay says the rabbi
periodically takes a boat out to the river to immerse new food vessels, as
mandated by halachah,
Jewish law. While she appreciates his efforts, she feels that the community
would benefit from a proper mikvah, which would free them from troubling him
every time they purchase a new pot.
In recent years, Raichman
says that a small nucleus of observant couples have coalesced around the Chabad center, making the need for the
mikvah more acute. Right now, some women fly to São Paulo, which takes four
hours, or Belem, which is a two-hour flightor five-day boat rideeach way,
she reports. But the time has come for us to have a halachically acceptable, palatable option right
here in Manaus.
Azulay says the trips to São Paulo are a welcome opportunity for
her to visit family and friends, and stock up on kosher supplies. Still, its
very hard, expensive and time-consumingand it was all that much harder to make
the trip when my son was a baby.
Im sure that even more women would be interested in going to the
mikvah if it would be easier, says Azulay. Dvorah has been teaching women so
much about the beauty of Jewish life and observance. Many people have made
changes in their livesfrom keeping kosher to not driving on Shabbat or Jewish holidaysand I am sure that
mikvah would be more attractive if we could have a local one that does not
In order to accommodate the growing need, the Raichmans have
recently begun a campaign to construct a beautiful mikvah for the Manauss
locals and tourists.
A generous donor has already stepped up to sponsor its
construction, leaving the rabbi and his wife to raise funds for and locate a
suitable piece of land for its development.
Mikvah is the mainstay of Jewish life, asserts Dvorah Lea
Raichman, and we are looking forward to bringing this important function to
the depths of the Amazon.
Reprinted from Chabad.org