The Day the Mikveh Went Dry
When a drought left Omaha’s ritual bath empty, refilling it required some imagination—and a ton of ice
Three weeks later, on Sept. 11, a Muzzy Ice truck pulled up to the mikveh. Inside the truck were seven 300-pound blocks of ice. An extra 100 pounds of dry ice was shoved inside the truck to ensure that nothing melted.
In less than an hour, staff members of the Jewish Federation moved the ice into the mikveh. Along the way, little pieces of ice would chip off and fall on the stairs; Weiss and a colleague would rush to pick them up to make sure that the chips wouldn’t liquefy and contaminate the mikveh water. “It was very intense and very stressful,” recalled Weiss. “[But] it was quite an experience. I’ve never dealt with a ton of ice in a small contained area.”
Once all seven 300-pound blocks were moved, the question became how long the ice would take to melt. Estimates ranged from two days to a week.
They never got to find out.
The next evening a huge torrential storm hit the Midwest. In several hours, the bor z’reih, the place where the rainwater collected, was filled to capacity and the first pool was filled. “I went in the next day and said, ‘Wow.’ ” Weiss told me. “Now our only problem was our mikveh was filled with ice.”
Both Weiss and Gross said that the whole effort pulled Omaha’s roughly 6,000 Jews together and led to a newfound curiosity about the mikveh, even among those who don’t really use it.
“Was it a waste of energy and time? Or conversation and money?” Weiss considered. “We often say that our efforts and actions have repercussions for good and bad and perhaps this was a repercussion. It’s a community mikveh and it’s integral to us. Perhaps by showing how much it means to us, I think … we saw a response or sign from God. For our action, we have God’s reaction: ‘I’ll give you the rainfall you were looking for.’ ”
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