The Hasidic movement Chabad Lubavitch has opened the first mikvah, a ritual bath for spiritual purification, in Montana. Estimates are that there are fewer than 1000 Jews residing in Montana, but Chabad says this is the only contemporary mikvah in a vast area that includes Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota.
From the Associated Press article:
Jewish law requires married women to immerse in the mikvah for ritual purity after menstruation and a period of abstaining from sex. Brides are expected to immerse before their weddings. The bath can also be used as purification as part of converting to Judaism.
Outside of the small Orthodox Jewish community, many American Jews had stopped using the mikvah, partly out of objections to its perspective on women. However, in recent years, more Jews have been rediscovering traditional practices, and the ritual bath has had a renaissance.
As a shiksa, I don’t care to open the debate about the mikvah’s perspectives on women, but simply to note the significance of this increased availability of means for women to practice menstrual ritual of their faith. (Those who are interested in the question of whether the mikvah is sexist may wish to read this article by Jancie Lochansky, which puts that question to Rivkah Slonim, author of Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology.)