A group from a summer camp sits on the floor of the Mayyim Hayyim atrium during an education program
Art Gallery and Education Center, Youth

by Leeza Negelev, Associate Director of Education

I’m going to try something new. I’m going to tell you a story about Mayyim Hayyim, only it hasn’t happened yet. It’s actually not even a story. It’s a list of three programs that I’m going to teach this week. By the time you are reading this, they’ll have already happened, but now as I’m writing these words, I’m in the thick of organizing the last-minute details.

This is my ode to the Education Center in three programs. I hope you enjoy.

Camp Ramah of Nyack, New York is bringing 55 middle school campers and staffers
Before Mayyim Hayyim existed, when camp staff were organizing a “fun day trip to Boston in the summer,” you would find the usual items on the list: a Duck tour, a Red Sox game, maybe a museum. Suffice it to say, learning at a mikveh was not on that list. Now, every summer, several large camp groups come to learn at Mayyim Hayyim. The campers leave our building with a broader understanding of Jewish life. They learn about the final steps for someone who wants to join our people. Lastly, whether they ever decide to immerse or not, they now know that this ritual is available to them for so many different reasons.

Hebrew College’s Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education is bringing 14 Jewish professionals from their certificate program, “Neurodiversity Across the Jewish Lifespan”
Educators, future-rabbis, and Jewish leaders from across the country are learning about how Jewish organizations welcome individuals who are neurodivergent (people whose brain functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal”). When they visit Mayyim Hayyim, they will hear the story of a mom who planned a bar mitzvah at Mayyim Hayyim for her autistic son, about how Mikveh Guides make modifications for people with a wide variety of needs, and about how our organization’s “culture of yes” has removed many stumbling blocks for people with disabilities.

The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute is bringing their 8 summer interns
The HBI Interns will join a 3,000-year-old conversation about what Jewish law has to say about issues of gender, sexuality, and relationships. The mere fact that this conversation is happening, at a mikveh, and with a group of women who represent almost every denomination within Judaism, is incredible to me. Although at our pluralistic mikveh and education center, these kinds of conversations happen every day, it’s easy to forget that in most places, it’s simply not the norm. Every year I look forward to this program for the candor and thoughtful discussion that the interns bring to our learning.

As I plan these programs I’m met with a familiar excitement and nervousness. I never know who will show up, and where our shared curiosity will lead us. I’m excited to find out.

Leeza Neglev

Leeza Negelev is the Associate Director of Education at Mayyim Hayyim.