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Building a new centre for wellbeing with Mikveh at its heart

About the Wellspring Project

· Project Updates

Building a new centre for wellbeing with Mikveh at its heart

Introduction

We will help people accept what their life is now, rather than focusing on what it was, or what it is not going to be. The centre will bring together Jewish practices and wisdom, with contemporary therapies to meet the needs of our visitors

The Wellspring Project was initiated in 2018 (as the Mikveh Project UK), by Rabbi Miriam Berger after a profound personal experience at the Mayyim Hayyim Mikveh in Boston, Massachusetts. The project aims to build a Centre for Wellbeing in Barnet, North London which will include immersion pools for the ritual of mikveh (fully body immersion), rooms for talking and complementary therapies and groups.

The centre will be a welcoming, inclusive and non-judgmental space for people of all genders from all faiths (of all denominations) and people of non-religious beliefs. It will actively promote resilience building, taking a preventative as well as a therapeutic approach to good mental health allowing Jewish rituals such as immersion to be part of wellbeing and recovery.

Why is the centre needed?

The power of having a Jewish centre for wellbeing is to put mental health firmly at the forefront of Jewish conversations and provide a focus for the communities’ commitment to proactive resilience building.

Historically, Judaism has created rituals for many life moments. However, there are many modern occasions that do not currently have a related Jewish ritual e.g. remission from cancer, acknowledging childhood abuse, gender reassignment.

Creating a Jewish space for healing within the community could do much to reduce and alleviate the stigma of experiencing a mental health problem. Having somewhere to be held in the midst of your own community is a rare and valuable opportunity.

This mikveh will be the only location for Liberal, Reform and Masorti conversions in the UK. And many people converting within Europe will use it too. It will replace the woefully inadequate mikveh at the Sternberg Centre which is located within a disabled toilet.

Why a mikveh?

A mikveh is a Jewish pool for immersion in natural water. The mikveh waters have long been associated with renewal, transition and healing. We have been inspired and moved by Mayyim Hayyim in Boston, Massachusetts. Since they opened in 2004 they have been creating rituals to mark modern day transitions such as infertility, abuse, cancer treatment and bereavement, as well as to celebrate life stages or changes such as bnei-mitzvah, gender reassignment or retirement. They have created these rituals based on the ancient Jewish tradition of immersion in water, a 21st century creation reinvented to serve the Jewish communities of today.

Working with all communities

Whilst we are an independent charity, working with other Jewish and local organisations will be integral to our model. We will provide beautiful spaces for mental health/support charities to see clients and run groups, and we will refer our visitors to their services. We will work closely with synagogues to enhance their pastoral care. Our provision will ease pressure on existing Jewish welfare services, offering early interventions with lower thresholds for support and will offer those organisations Jewish wellbeing content. To ensure all communities can use our centre, the mikveh will be built and maintained to the highest halachic standards.

We feel a responsibility to share this centre with the wider community. Whilst it will be proudly Jewish, the centre will be open and available to people of all faiths and those of non-religious beliefs.

What will the centre be like?

The centre will be in the London Borough of Barnet with an internal area of 350-500m2.

It is important to create a venue that feels completely discreet and private so that nobody should have to justify their use of the services there although will also have the bespoke support they need.

The building will be fully accessible and child friendly with a calming and reflective outdoor space for use by visitors. It will include:

· One fully accessible immersion pool, and one smaller immersion pool which can be accessed by four to six changing rooms.

· The immersion pools and the water storage system will adhere to all halachic requirements to make it fully kosher.

· Four to six treatment rooms (two of which can be combined to create a larger room).

· A multi-use function room (large enough to seat 60 guests seated in rows).

· Two waiting rooms and a family room

· Kitchen, reception, offices for staff and attendants and storage facilities.

· There will be outdoor space for use by visitors

Where are we now?

We are in the development phase– listening to potential users to create plans for delivery, exploring best practice, creating the necessary advisory groups, creating partnerships and preparing to launch a feasibility study.

We will raise the £5 million required for the build through fundraising from foundations, trusts and donors. The annual running costs are £450-500k, which will be generated by:

· Hiring therapy rooms and wellbeing studios -

· Wellbeing packages offered to Synagogues and communal organisations -

· Function/meeting space

· Mikveh Visits

Our aim is to open in 2024. To help us raise the costs for the project please contact Rachel on info@wellspringprojectuk.org.

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