by Carrie Bornstein

If you know about the mikveh, you’re probably aware that there are any number of reasons why a person might feel, well, less than comfortable with the idea. Let’s be honest here – the mikveh is not our easiest of rituals. Some people have anxiety about water, or with nudity, for that matter. The blessings are in Hebrew and sometimes people are concerned they will do it “wrong.”

DSC_0018Now imagine you feel all that, and you have a disability.

The staff and volunteers at Mayyim Hayyim work hard to make the experience of visiting the mikveh as accessible and meaningful as possible. Part of that means giving as much information as possible to people who have not yet visited – everything from explaining where the preparation rooms are in relation to the mikveh to the temperature of the water, to how much time it might take to prepare and immerse.

A thorough consultation means our visitors know what to expect when they arrive. But it’s not easy to alleviate someone’s doubts when, for example, they don’t have the use of their legs. Phone calls, emails, visits to our website can help, but there is much more we can do.

“Our foundation’s work is focused on the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of the Jewish community. Mayyim Hayyim is right down the street from our foundation and although we have been aware of their great work, it was not until recently that we formed a partnership with them. Mayyim Hayyim, who understands the importance of inclusion to their work, was a perfect partner for our foundation.” Sharon Shapiro, Trustee and Director of the Boston Office (credit: Steve Lipofsky)

This is why I am so grateful to the Ruderman Family Foundation for their support for our newest documentary film, Open Waters, forthcoming this spring. Featuring people with all different kinds of needs and showing our aquatic lift, we can demonstrate how Mayyim Hayyim welcomes each person as if the mikveh had been built just for them – which, indeed it has. The film will show (rather than just tell) people with a variety of physical and cognitive abilities what to expect. It will also demonstrate to friends, family members, and communities that the mikveh is an option for everyone.

Finally, I hope every person who watches this film, wherever they are, remembers just how many barriers there are not only to visiting a mikveh. I hope they will consider their own synagogue, camp, or school and what kind of barriers exist there.

All of us at Mayyim Hayyim hope the film can inspire everyone to work so that there are no stumbling blocks in any of our Jewish communal organizations. We can’t wait to share it with you.


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Carrie Bornstein is Mayyim Hayyim’s Executive Director.