by Hanan Greenwood
Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in Seoul, South Korea, are completing the first-ever mikvah built in the country.
Jewish women seeking ritual-bath services have thus far had to travel quite a distance—to China or Japan—to use a mikvah for Taharat Hamishpachah, or family purity according to Jewish law. The beach was also an option, though an awkward one.
The mikvah is constructed in the shape of a water drop that symbolizes the purity of the rainwater source of the mikvah. The walls and floor are made of wood in a modern design that hints at Korean and Asian tradition. The mikvah ceiling, shaped like a drop of water, was built using a 3D printer.
Rabbi Osher Litzman of Chabad in South Korea said: “We arrived 11 years ago, and it’s been our foremost goal to build a mikvah that will serve the Jews living here.”
“A lot of women wanted to move here after receiving offers from companies like Samsung, and when they heard there was no mikvah, they passed because the only other option was to fly to Japan or China,” which can be an arduous and expensive trip every month, said Litzman.
An estimated 500 to 1,000 Jews live in South Korea, most of whom are in the country for work purposes. The community has a rapid turnover and centers mainly around the local Chabad House. The mikvah is also geared for Jewish tourists as well.
“We serve every Jew who needs us. There’s a synagogue, and every Friday and Saturday, there are prayers, as well as a Shabbat meal, songs and stories—an atmosphere like that in a lot of communities all over the world. We also have a kosher food store with [kosher] wine and meat,” said the rabbi.
Work on the project began a year ago, and the building is slated to be finished in a few weeks.