by David Schatz

I only encountered Mayyim Hayyim totally by chance. On a morning jog through Auburndale, I found a Mikveh Guide name tag from Mayyim Hayyim. I emailed the office to find out what to do with the card, and Lori, the Office Manager, invited me to come by and return it. Once there, Lisa, the Mikveh and Education Director, offered to show me around. At first I felt uncomfortable, since I always figured that Mayyim Hayyim was purely a women’s realm. Apparently not!

Mayyim Hayyim is gorgeous inside and reminds me of a Swiss spa. It’s not quite the same as the 2,000 year old mikva’ot in archaeological digs in Israel. Clearly it is very much at home in Newton. But Lisa showed me the mikveh itself and then the preparation rooms, and explained how kids come to find out what a mikveh is. I had no idea that so many people came to learn or to convert to Judaism at Mayyim Hayyim specifically because it is such a welcoming place. Lisa also explained that in addition to the predominantly female clientele, many men actually come for various life events, or before holidays or Shabbat. Surprise, surprise.

Full disclosure: I’m a complete atheist, notwithstanding my periodic appearances at the Newton Centre Minyan. But something happened there in the middle of Mayyim Hayyim. I felt something for which I have no words. It was just a sense of belonging, of warmth, and of being Jewish. Powerful feelings, which were hidden way down inside me for years, both happy and sad, started rising to the surface. I can’t be more specific, but I knew that I had to come back and “take the plunge.”

So I did. I’m not sure what other people feel when they actually walk down those seven steps and get into the water. But I know what I felt, and it was totally out of the realm of a software engineer. So, even if it’s not a life event, a conversion, the end of your period, or a holiday, you really need to check it out at least once in your life. And you don’t even need to go to Switzerland!

dsDavid is a short term West Newton resident who hails originally from Lexington, but spent enough time living on Kibbutz Tzuba in Israel to raise four kids. These kids, incidentally, graduated from Solomon Schechter Day School after their return to the States. David works in Boston as a security software engineer.