Accessibility and Inclusion, Interfaith
By Julia Becker Collins, Director of Community Engagement

I have often felt that much of my adult life has been about transitions.  In the past 13 years I have lived in 3 different states across the country, and with every move I searched for a way to answer the question I saw posed by my bumper sticker: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  For as long as I can remember I have always felt a deep commitment to non-profit work and was driven by the need to make an indelible difference in my community and the greater world; when my peers in high school were dreaming of careers as TV anchors and dentists, I dreamt of working for the national Planned Parenthood office.  Through my life milestone transitions (getting married), professional transitions (this latest one), geographical transitions (moving from California to Massachusetts), and more difficult transitions (sustaining family losses), I continued my search for a way to leave my mark on my community and the world.

I was first introduced to Mayyim Hayyim in 2009 when I attended an educational session taught by Lisa Berman as part of the URJ’s Introduction to Judaism class.  On the advice of Cantor Jodi Schechtman (Temple Beth Am in Framingham) I enrolled in the course along with Devin (now my husband) prior to our wedding, since Devin is not Jewish and we were planning a Jewish wedding.   After that initial visit to Mayyim Hayyim, my views on what a mikveh could be shifted and my husband actually commented to me that he thought I might find an immersion prior to our wedding a valuable experience.  I later came back to immerse just a few days before our wedding and I found it to be a significantly powerful and personal moment during a stressful time.

Since that lifecycle transition (and really for a time before it), my interest in delving into issues concerning interfaith families has grown exponentially.  This has offered up a new lens for me to view the transitions in my life and those around me.  As I see it, this is an asset for me, for my personal life navigating this interfaith family, and in my professional life when I am working with people of all backgrounds and family structures.

I can now safely say that I have an answer to my bumper sticker; the change I want to see in the world is one where the Jewish community is as fully inclusive and welcoming as possible to people from all walks of life and from all faith backgrounds.  After 3 weeks of working as a member of the professional staff of Mayyim Hayyim, I know that this is not just something we preach, but we also practice.  When I leave work at the end of the day, I feel satisfied with the contribution to the local and overarching community that I worked to create, and I also stand up a bit straighter knowing that I did so with families like mine in mind.  So maybe now my bumper sticker should say, “I am the change I want to see in the world.”

Julia Becker Collins, Director of Community Engagement, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Women’s Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is in the process of completing her Masters in Public Administration at Framingham State University.  She is very excited to join the professional staff at Mayyim Hayyim during this transition into the next phase of the agency.