By Cantor Rachel Stock Spilker
My connection to mikveh is nearly as old as Mayyim Hayyim itself.
Eighteen years ago, I was in Boston visiting family. My sister-in-law, who was then a Mayyim Hayyim board member, asked me to go to the mikveh with her as she marked a miscarriage – sadly one of many. As she descended the stairs into the mikveh, I was in awe of both the sadness and sacredness of the moment. Her tears mingled with the mikveh waters. After three immersions, she climbed back up the stairs with determination, as if to say, “Ok, I’m ready to try again.” After she got dressed, I gave her a big hug, and thought to myself, “This is something. We need more ritual moments like this in Jewish life.”
Several years later, when my husband and I were in Boston on sabbatical, I served Mayyim Hayyim as a scholar-in-residence. I created rituals, wrote blog posts, developed a guide of preparation steps for people with disabilities, and consulted on several other projects – one of which became the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network.
Today, Rising Tide includes 33 community mikva’ot in six countries, supporting people who are reclaiming and reinventing the ancient ritual of mikveh – making it available to the full diversity of the Jewish community.
My time at Mayyim Hayyim made me realize what my own community in Minnesota was missing, and I began working to fill that gap. I’m thrilled to tell you that Maayanot Community Mikveh of Minnesota is making huge strides, and we hope to open in 2024 – exactly twenty years after Mayyim Hayyim opened its doors.
Rising Tide has been essential to Maayanot’s development – providing a resource bank, online training, an annual conference, and a network of mikveh-makers. We share resources for everything from fundraising to online appointment systems, from plumbing questions to program ideas. But this is more than a professional association: it is a supportive community – a space that encourages dreams and creativity.
Last fall, a group in the Rising Tide Facebook group began talking about the total lack of materials about mikveh for children. That conversation inspired me to co-author a children’s book that will introduce youngsters to this beautiful tradition. Working with my Rising Tide colleague Rabbi Dr. Haviva Ner David, of Kibbutz Hannaton’s Mikveh Shmaya in Israel, I’m thrilled that children in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Israel, and beyond will learn that mikveh is a beautiful part of their Jewish birthright. I can’t tell you how excited I am about our book, Yonah and the Mikveh Fish, which released this week.
When I accompanied my sister-in-law to the mikveh 18 years ago, I witnessed a powerful healing moment. Little did I realize it would set me on a path to becoming the founder of a mikveh in my own community – and soon an author! This is a story that flourished because of Rising Tide. I am truly grateful.
Celebrate the launch of Rachel’s book with the Rising Tide Network, Sunday, March 19th at 4-5pm ET / 3-4pm CT / 1-2pm PT. Learn more and RSVP here.
Rachel Stock Spilker has served as a cantor at Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul, MN since 1997. She was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1996. Rachel serves Mount Zion alongside her husband, Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker, and they have three children — Eiden (26), Mirit (24), and Liam (18). Rachel first went to Mayyim Hayyim shortly after it opened to accompany someone she is close with who had recently had one of a series of miscarriages. In 2016, she spent a six month sabbatical at Mayyim Hayyim doing a variety of projects. She is the founder of Maayanot Community Mikveh of Minnesota, an emerging mikveh and member of the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network.