900-year-old mikveh, of­fers in­vited

The Jewish Chronicle - - HOME NEWS - BY CANDICE KRIEGER

THE BRIS­TOL Jewish com­mu­nity fears that a relic of the area’s an­cient Jewish past is un­der threat be­cause it is be­ing put up for auc­tion next month.

A mikveh, or rit­ual bath, which dates back to 1100 and is lo­cated half a mile from the city cen­tre, is be­ing sold by its cur­rent owner at a guide price of £120,000. Bris­tol He­brew Con­gre­ga­tion is ap­peal­ing to the en­tire com­mu­nity to help save it. They are be­ing backed by the Board of Deputies.

A spokesper­son for the syn­a­gogue told the JC: “It would be a great shame from a his­tor­i­cal and re­li­gious per­spec­tive if the build­ing were to be knocked down or con­verted.

“We do not have the cash to bid for it and in an ideal world, the wider Jewish com­mu­nity would help us to pre­serve it. Hav­ing a fund for pro­tect­ing Jewish his­tory is maybe some­thing the wider Jewish com­mu­nity should con­sider.”

Alex Gold­berg, di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity is­sues at the Board, said: “This il­lus­trates the need for a na­tional strat­egy or trust fund for the preser­va­tion of Jewish her­itage sites.

“At the Board, we are cur­rently look­ing at her­itage strat­egy. There are a num­ber of ‘at risk’ sites around the coun­try, of ma­jor arche­o­log­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance, and there does not ap­pear to be ei­ther a na­tional cap­i­tal fund for main­te­nance sites or a trust to pur­chase th­ese Jewish sites.”

He added: “There are peo­ple do­ing great work in cat­a­logu­ing Jewish her­itage in the UK and Ire­land and there is a con­cern over the need for a ma­jor re­view of the preser­va­tion of Jewish her­itage in the UK.”

The 600 sq ft Ja­cob’s Well mikveh dates back to 1100, when a grad­u­ally in­creas­ing num­ber of Jews set­tled in the area. They needed a hill­side for a sep­a­rate ceme­tery, to­gether with two sources of wa­ter, one for wash­ing the dead ( ta­hara) and the other for pu­rifi­ca­tion rit­u­als ( mikveh). They came across two springs flow­ing from Clifton to Sand­brook and used one of them for the mikveh, where it re­mains to­day.

Owner Chris Ross presently uses it as a stor­age ware­house, but there are fears that the mikveh, which bears a He­brew in­scrip­tion, faces the risk of be­ing turned into a Star­bucks or shops.

The plot is not listed as an English Her­itage site but is sched­uled as an “an­cient mon­u­ment”. A spokesper­son at English Her­itage told the JC: “If the new owner wanted to change the site, then they could do so pro­vid­ing they re­ceived plan­ning per­mis­sion.”

Mr Ross, who has owned the site for the last six years, ac­knowl­edged the “his­tor­i­cal and re­li­gious value” of the site. He told the JC: “Al­though the mikveh is not func­tion­ing, we do get peo­ple com­ing to pray here.”

The auc­tion is due to take place on Fe­bru­ary 26.

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