by Kythryne Aisling
Before coming to Mayyim Hayyim, many people at Temple Beth Jacob had told me what an amazing place it was. As someone who lives with severe chronic pain, and who has a daughter with sensory processing issues, I wasn’t so sure how it would go.
While the main reason for our visit was for my daughter and I to formally convert to Judaism, it came at a time of tremendous healing, both emotionally, spiritually and physically. In addition to being a single mother I’m also a brain tumor and Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) survivor. Rabbi Robin Nafshi and Cantor Shira Nafshi incorporated Mi Shebeirach, a prayer for healing, into my immersion as I had asked. As they sang to me, the experience of consciously choosing to let go of my past while in the waters left a powerful imprint. That moment will forever be what I remember when I think of surviving the past few years.
The day after our conversion, my daughter and I were at Shabbat services at Temple Beth Jacob, when my she whispered to me, “Mama, I’m all the way Jewish now, right?” It brought tears to my eyes. Despite the fact that my daughter is terrified of getting water in her eyes and ears, and experiences sensory processing issues, she had specifically asked to come to immerse. It was clear to me that her immersion was one of the most important moments of her life so far. A key part of our positive experience was our Mikveh Guide at Mayyim Hayyim. She made everyone, including my non-Jewish partner, feel comfortable and welcome.
In addition to the ritual of immersion, I wanted an additional ritual on the day of my conversion. I am a jeweler, and several years ago when my PTSD was at its very worst I created a necklace from a small glass vial, intended to serve as a talisman to remind me to stay grounded. I very rarely take it off, and I knew removing it before my upcoming immersion was going to feel very vulnerable, never mind being completely naked while in the water.
The night before my immersion, I reworked the necklace which had originally been wrapped in plain wire with a few somber stones inside. I added a rainbow of gemstones and Roman glass. After my immersion, I handed the necklace to everyone there with me, and one by one, they placed stones and other symbolic items into the glass vial. Among the items it now contains is sand gathered by a friend from across Israel and fragments of stone from the city of Eilat.
In the end, the day exceeded my high expectations. Thank you for creating such a holy and inclusive space.
Later this month Mayyim Hayyim will launch a Discussion Guide to complement the Open Waters: Mikveh for Everybody film. To make sure you receive information about it once we launch it later this month, join our mailing list or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kythryne Aisling is a jewelry artist, performance poet, singer, inadvertent disability activist, and single mother. Find her on Twitter at @wyrdingstudios.