"I want a mikveh that encourages the prayers of the heart in Jews of every denomination and description. … I want a mikveh that respects the modesty of the people who visit ... that is beautiful in design and decoration, welcoming and inviting from the minute you walk through the door."
In 2000, best-selling author Anita Diamant outlined her vision for a community mikveh in an essay called Why I Want a Mikveh. Diamant made the case for a mikveh that “encourages the prayers of the heart in Jews of every denomination and description. A mikveh that would respect the choices and modesty of everyone who visits. A mikveh that would be beautiful in design and decoration — a welcoming and inviting place, from the minute you walk through the door.”
In 2001 Diamant assembled a small, dynamic founding board and hired Aliza Kline as Mayyim Hayyim’s executive director. Kline’s experience, energy, and passion for Jewish life was instrumental in turning the dream of a new kind of mikveh into a 21st century reality.
Because most American Jews were unfamiliar with even the idea of mikveh, Mayyim Hayyim’s board and executive director launched a dual campaign to teach about the possibilities of this ancient ritual as well as to raise funds to build a totally unprecedented institution. But with visionary help from many individuals in the greater Boston area, the idea caught on and money was raised.
On May 14, 2004, Mayyim Hayyim opened the doors to its home in a renovated Victorian home, in Newton, Massachusetts. New construction included two beautiful immersion pools – mikva’ot – four preparation suites, and a welcoming reception area. The original house became a multipurpose facility that now serves as an education center and celebration venue, and art gallery.
In 2012 Mayyim Hayyim hired Carrie Bornstein as its executive director and successfully transitioned to new lay leadership. In 2013 a small group of existing and new supporters came together to evaporate the existing mortgage to ensure that the bank would no longer own Mayyim Hayyim, the community would. In 2019, Mayyim Hayyim celebrated its 20,000th immersion and 3,000th conversion.
Building off of our previous success and with a vision to strengthen, inspire, and build the field we created, Mayyim Hayyim launched the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network. Within its first year, nearly thirty communities from five countries around the world joined to foster this vision and open the doors to the mikveh for everybody in the Jewish world.
Reflecting her tenure and as an expression of Mayyim Hayyim’s commitment to gender equity in leadership titles, Carrie Bornstein assumed the title of Chief Executive Officer in 2021. Shortly thereafter, the board unanimously passed a three-year strategic plan that would enable Mayyim Hayyim to become a national organization that will build and lead the field of Open Mikveh to create a more inclusive, spiritually nourished Jewish community in Boston and around the world.
At its local “test kitchen” and innovation lab in Boston, Mayyim Hayyim is a destination for Jews across the spectrum of observance and affiliation. Visitors from around the US and, indeed, from the around the world come to Mayyim Hayyim to study, celebrate, immerse, and to be inspired about what is possible in the Jewish future.