We never spoke about mikveh in my family. I never really thought about this until I started working at Mayyim Hayyim. At Mayyim Hayyim, mothers and daughters come to immerse for many smachot (happy occasions). Families gather to celebrate conversions and wedding immersions. Mothers pass along to their daughters the tradition of the mikveh, which often involves family. In my family, we followed many Jewish traditions, except for the mikveh. I began to wonder why.
My Bubbe, Ida Fader, may she rest in peace, was a sweet, kind, woman. She grew up in the small town of Gorodok in the Ukraine, where her family owned an inn. Her sister, Malka, fell in love and moved away with her new husband to America. Then came the sudden news that Malka had died during childbirth and there was a new baby. Malka’s husband travelled back to Gorodok to marry Ida and take her to America, to Brooklyn, NY. The wedding was quick, and I know she had a bridal immersion. I can only imagine the emotions she was feeling. A quickly arranged marriage to her newly deceased sister’s husband, the baby awaiting her in Brooklyn.
My Bubbe’s immersion before her wedding was the last immersion in our family. No one knows exactly what she experienced at her bridal immersion, but it was likely not a happy experience, possibly for many reasons. She would never speak of the mikveh again. This is the opposite of what a bridal immersion is at Mayyim Hayyim. So many joyful brides, and grooms, come to Mayyim Hayyim to immerse and celebrate before their weddings and when they do, I remember my Bubbe. I think of Ida and feel so sad for her and for all the women in my family who lost the tradition of the mikveh. I can only image what would have been if Ida had immersed at Mayyim Hayyim.
I imagine Ida’s Mayyim Hayyim immersion would have been peaceful and restorative; a moment to grieve for her sister and also acknowledge the transition to marriage, moving to America, and becoming a mother to her sister’s baby. Her immersion could have been an experience and tradition passed on to her daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters. How different our lives could have been within the framework of mikveh, immersion, and family celebration.
Sherri Goldman joined the Mayyim Hayyim staff in May, 2007. Sherri is responsible for managing Mayyim Hayyim’s financial and office operations, including accounts payable and accounts receivable, financial reporting, and building management. Sherri holds an M.B.A. from Suffolk University and is a registered Notary Public in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.