The Women’s Tefila of Great Neck Synagogue and the Mikveh Association of the North Shore on Long Island recently opened a library, focused on women’s health concerns, in the waiting room of the local mikveh. To our knowledge, this is the first coordinated effort by a women’s prayer group and a mikveh association. From a recent perusal of what little is left on the shelves, the library is an immense success.
The idea of a lending library focusing on women’s health was born in response to a request by a local Orthodox rabbi for help combatting domestic violence in the Jewish community. The Women’s Tefila Group developed the purchasing list for the library and donated the funds, and the Mikveh Association donated the facility.
In the relative privacy of the mikveh waiting room, women can browse or borrow the books anonymously. The library covers a wide range of topics, including physical and reproductive health, marital and family health, domestic violence, and spiritual health and taharat hamishpacha (Jewish family laws). The books come from both Jewish and secular worlds. The collection runs the gamut from Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book to Blu Greenberg’s How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household, from And Hannah Wept …(by Michael Gold, on infertility), to The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis).
On the topic of domestic violence. secular books such as The Verbally Abusive Relationship (by Patricia Evans) share shelf space with books written for observant Jews, including Rabbi Abraham Twersky’s, The Shame Borne of Silence: Spouse Abuse in the Jewish Community, and Miriam Adahan’s Sticks and Stones.
While all of these books are available in local bookstores, the great number being borrowed suggests that many women are interested in reading books that they may not be willing to purchase or order in a public library or bookstore. Shame, anxiety and financial constraints become obstacles to getting help. The mikveh library offers women a way to overcome those obstacles.