The $5-million Jewish Bukharian Centre that’s under construction in Vaughan, Ont., will house a state-of-the-art mikveh that will be the first wheelchair-accessible mikveh in the Greater Toronto Area, catering to women with mobility issues and physical disabilities.
The Richmond Hill Country Shul, The Jewish Bukharian Centre of Toronto and the Shaarei Zion Community Centre have partnered to build the new centre at the intersection of Bathurst Street and Carville Road. Construction is in its final stages and is expected to be completed in April.
The new mikveh will have a specially designed bath lift, which will allow women who require special assistance to fulfill the mitzvah of mikveh immersion.
“The halakhah mentions that if you have money for one thing, the first thing to do is to build a mikveh. This is something that is needed in every community and we have made it in a way that will accommodate everyone,” said Rabbi Avraham Kahn, head of the Shaarei Zion Community Centre and dean of Yeshivat Keser Torah.
Mordechai Bookbinder, who is helping raise funds for the centre, said the building will also house two shuls, as well as a social hall.
“One of the fascinating things about the centre is that there are two separate communities, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, who are both coming to the same facility to hold services at the same time under the same roof, in their own sanctuary. To my knowledge, we don’t have that anywhere else in Toronto,” Bookbinder said.
Rabbi Kahn said that, “During the week, the plan is that both communities will join for one service. It is our hope that both communities will join and celebrate festive occasions together in the social hall.”
Over the past 25 years, more than 350 Bukharian Jewish families, who are of Central Asian descent, have settled in the GTA. In 1998, a committee was established to unite the GTA’s Bukharian community. Initially, the Centre of Bukharian Jews worked alongside the Jewish Russian Community Centre (JRCC) and was housed on the JRCC’s campus.
The Jewish Bukharian Community of Toronto was formally inaugurated in April 2003, to serve the needs of the growing community.
“There are thousands of young families, mostly unaffiliated at this point, who live in Thornhill, Richmond Hill and Thornhill Woods. We saw the trend was to move up there, and so we decided to have a presence. That is how we connected with a smaller Ashkenazi community shul known as the Richmond Hill Country Shul. They had a small bungalow synagogue and were interested in building a new centre for their congregation, so we joined forces,” explained Rabbi Kahn.
Bookbinder said that Bukharian culture goes back 2,700 years.
“It’s one of the largest continuous cultural Jewish growths that we know of, with Toronto having the world’s third-largest population in one city, after Israel and New York,” he said.
Besides serving members of the Country Shul and the Bukharian community, the mikveh is expected to be used by thousands of other women from throughout the GTA.
For more information, visit jbctoronto.com.
The Jewish Bukharian Centre, which is currently under construction, is located at the intersection of Bathurst Street and Carville Road in Vaughan, Ont.