by Wendy Gonsenhauser, Teacher at Beth Tikvah Synagogue of Westborough MA and her 5th and 6th Grade Students
Every year, Mayyim Hayyim’s Education Center sees over sixty programs for youth, (and another fifty for adults). Students come from day schools and synagogues all over the Greater Boston Area, some travelling from as far as New Hampshire and Israel. Wendy Gonsenhauser, a Jewish Educator at Beth Tikvah Synagogue in Westborough, MA, recently brought a group of 5th and 6th graders from her life cycle class. After their visit, Wendy offered the students a chance to reflect on their time here by taking turns interviewing each other.
Wendy: The 5th and 6th graders at Beth Tikvah Synagogue were studying the Jewish life cycle. This is a two-year curriculum through which the students learn about significant milestone events that are part of Jewish life. The unit uses textbooks as a resource, and experiential, project-based learning is an important component. Visiting Mayyim Hayyim is integral in understanding the role mikva’ot play in various life cycle events. Prior to their trip, the students also learned about more traditional mikva’ot in order to better understand what Mayyim Hayyim offers.
Below is a transcription of the Beth Tikvah 5th and 6th graders’ interviews.
Interview #1: A Conversation Between Aaron, Adam, and Teddy
Q: What is Mayyim Hayyim?
A: Mayyim Hayyim is a mikveh, a Jewish place where people go when they are experiencing change. It’s a Jewish ritual bath.
Q: What do you do in a mikveh?
A: You immerse yourself fully in the water and say a prayer.
Q: Why can’t you put all tap water in a mikveh?
A: A mikveh’s water must be part natural water.
Q: Why would you go to a mikveh?
A: You go to a mikveh when you are experiencing change or going through something big in your life.
Q: What is there at Mayyim Hayyim?
A: At Mayyim Hayyim there are four preparation rooms, two mikva’ot, impressive architecture, artwork, and a large table.
Interview #2: Rachel (R) and Jordan (J)
R: What was the best part?
J: Exploring Mayyim Hayyim.
J: Would you ever want to go to a mikveh, and why?
R: Yes, for my Bat Mitzvah.
J: When you walked into the mikveh what was the first thing that came to mind, and why?
R: Religion and holiness.
R: How is the mikveh holy?
J: It’s holy because holy things happen there, and they say prayers that make it holy.
J: How can we make the mikveh more enjoyable?
R: It was perfect. I wouldn’t change anything.
The following three students answered two questions about their trip:
1) What was the most interesting part of your visit to Mayyim Hayyim?
2) What most surprised you about your visit to Mayyim Hayyim?
- The thing I found the most interesting at Mayyim Hayyim was that you can do whatever you want in the pool after you pick the colors for the water. I thought you had to be completely serious, but you can do flips and handstands.
- The thing that I was surprised about is that you have to take a shower before you go into the pool. I didn’t think that cleaning yourself mattered that much at a mikveh.
- I liked how you could choose a color for the water in the pool.
- I thought that having a kitchen at a mikveh was the most surprising thing.
- The thing I found most interesting was that you can take more time to get ready to go into the mikveh than the time when you are actually in it.
- The thing that surprised me the most is, if someone is converting to Judaism, they have to go in the mikveh when they are converting, and another person has to come in to make sure that their head went fully under the water.
If you are interested in learning more about scheduling an education program for youth or adults at Mayyim Hayyim, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website for more information.
Wendy Gonsenhauser has been a Jewish educator for over 30 years, teaching subjects such T’fillah, Hebrew, Torah, Halacha (Jewish Law), Ethics, Life Cycle and Art. Wendy’s experience teaching spans a variety of congregations in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Wendy lives in Northborough, MA, with her husband and two daughters.