by Carrie Bornstein, Executive Director
Since before Mayyim Hayyim opened, we’ve gotten requests to share our model with other communities. We’ve offered individualized consultations, hosted international conferences, trainings, and a blog, developed curricula and immersion ceremonies, and created short documentary films that celebrate how the mikveh (of all things!) can be a place where people feel most alive in their Jewish skin.
When I first started working here more than nine years ago, our founding director, Aliza Kline, and I were the only two people with a full-time job at a mikveh. We used to note its absurdity: Ha – who does that?! If you did a Google search for ‘mikveh’ (or ‘mikvah,’ ‘mikve,’ ‘mikva,’ and even ‘miqveh’) practically nothing showed up. And if it did, it certainly didn’t feature an experience that I’d want to be a part of.
Now, in 2017, it’s a very different world. We’ve helped other community mikva’ot get off the ground, each with their own particular model. Those communities have subsequently helped others do so, too. We no longer have to explain what a mikveh is in every conversation. On Facebook, Twitter, and in conversation elsewhere, educators are seeking out ways to teach about how the mikveh might be meaningful to their students, and the whole endeavor to offer a mikveh experience that is welcoming and inclusive is becoming normalized – even expected – from those who visit.
The beauty of all this is that Mayyim Hayyim is no longer the central source of information, answers, or expertise. We have colleagues in the field who even send us materials to use here at Mayyim Hayyim.
Last week, Mayyim Hayyim celebrated a major milestone on our journey: bringing together four other communities to envision the creation of a national (and eventual international!) network of open mikva’ot. Thanks to the Natan Fund, we convened staff and lay leadership from ImmerseNYC in New York, MACoM – Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah, Adas Israel Community Mikvah in Washington, DC, and Libi Eir Awakened Heart Community Mikveh in Raleigh, NC, for two days in Boston to roll up our sleeves and envision our future collaborating together.
Expert trainer and facilitator, Rae Ringel, helped us build relationships with one another, consider our shared values and what the network will stand for, offer support and input on current challenges in our communities, talk about raising money for a mikveh, and envision some of the work that we might do together in the future.
It’s a very exciting time for us all, as we give some more structure to what this network will look like, and look forward to opening it up to many more communities in the future, when we’re ready. There’s a lot more work to do and money to raise as we build our core and the field as a whole. We’re on the cusp of some extraordinary impact ahead, I’m sure.
Carrie Bornstein is the Executive Director of Mayyim Hayyim.