From Tragedy to Transcendence

by Leah Robbins, Administrative and Marketing Assistant

leahWhen I walked into my first day on staff at Mayyim Hayyim yesterday, I had tucked away the pain of this weekend’s horrific events that have been weighing so heavily on me. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have been wrought with fear and grief over the Orlando massacre, as any one of those victims could have been me and my girlfriend who recently moved to Boston from Florida. This horrendous shooting had left me with a debilitating sadness, but the wheel of the work week does not delay for such heartbreak. Shortly after getting acquainted with my new coworkers, I discovered that we would begin our staff meeting with a brief gathering for a hand washing ceremony by the mikveh, to mourn the deaths of those killed.

We sat together around the mikveh pool and our Associate Director of Education, Leeza, led us through an amended Immersion Ceremony called Toward Healing, Upon Receiving Difficult News. We each took turns reading a piece of the ceremony, and ritually washing our hands. Leeza reminded us that Jewish tradition deems us ritually ill-equipped to do holy work when we come in contact with death. As a group, we began to wash away the anger and grief, marking this transition from death to life–to action–for the liberation of the LGBTQ+ community. This first and brief encounter with the mikveh waters lifted me out of my sense of helplessness, and into a state where I felt energized to mobilize my community for justice, especially for those black and brown victims whose racialized identities have been erased from media headlines.

I’ve always been told of the magic of the mikveh and its indescribable power to heighten and heal. Even after having only washed my hands in its waters in a short moment of mourning, I can attest to its otherworldliness. I am so grateful to have joined a working environment where within its walls lives an intentional space for restorative healing. Perhaps more importantly, I am appreciative to work with a group of women so intent on carving out space and time to uplift one another. On my first day of work, I felt on my hands and in my heart the enormous impact of Mayyim Hayyim. For those members of the Jewish LGBTQ+ community who are struggling to cope with the gravity of this tragedy, I encourage you to seek out a moment of safety, solace, and rejuvenation in the waters of the mikveh at Mayyim Hayyim.

Leah Robbins graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelors in Jewish and Women’s studies. She is also a resident organizer at the Moishe Kavod House with her partner Madison.


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