by Leah Robbins, Administrative and Marketing Assistant
Deep breath. Rip the band-aid… My tenure as Administrative and Marketing Assistant at Mayyim Hayyim has ended. I won’t be booking immersions, answering your calls, and most likely won’t be greeting your friendly faces around the building anymore. But don’t fret! The mikveh can’t get rid of me yet. Soon I’ll be taking on a new role to support the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network, our burgeoning collective of welcoming and inclusive mikva’ot. Oh, and I’m joining an amazing new cohort of Jewish professionals at the Hornstein Program at Brandeis!
As I look toward this new and exciting chapter of my academic and professional life, I’m eager to share some important moments that have shaped my experience here, informing not only the kind of professional I want to be, but the kind of Jew I want to be.
- My very first day at Mayyim Hayyim was bittersweet. For the first time in my life, my whole self was invited to the party. My fierce commitment to Judaism, my queerness, my social justice work, my love-affair with mikveh, all of me was welcome, and more importantly, wanted. I walked into the building doe-eyed with nerves and excitement, but grief and fear from the massacre of LGBTQ folks at the Pulse nightclub were churning my kishkes (insides). Imagine my jaw-dropping shock and relief when Associate Director of Education, Leeza Negelev, opened our staff meeting with a handwashing ritual by the mikveh, moving me from debilitating sadness to ritual readiness to confront the sacred work I was newly called to. I reflected on this transformative moment the next day in my very first blog post, writing:
“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.”
When I first moved to Boston, I was living in the Moishe Kavod House in Brookline, a 20’s and 30’s activist community that weaves justice work and committed Jewish practice. About a month into my stay, after having picked up my entire life from Florida to start anew, we experienced a horrific house fire that left the building condemned, and my partner and I displaced. Executive Director, Carrie Bornstein, sounded a rallying cry to the staff and board to garner support. Within minutes, folks were offering clothes, groceries, money, and housing. Board President, Sheri Gurock, allowed me, my partner, and my best friend to live in her home for OVER A MONTH. This generosity, without hesitation, without question, knocked me off kilter, exemplifying the unparalleled moral character of this organization.
As I head to graduate school to become a professional Jew, I mean, Jewish professional, and as I transition to my new role of supporting existing, emerging, and aspiring mikveh communities around the globe with Rising Tide, this is the lesson I’ve learned here: tradition and justice are not incongruous, they are symbiotic. Whether it’s lifting me personally out of my darkness, supporting our community members through major life transitions, bull-dozing barriers, or opening the door to the full spectrum of the Jewish community, Mayyim Hayyim is not in the business of lip-service, it is in the business of action. We aren’t afraid to confront the tough questions. We aren’t afraid to pull those stuck in the quicksand of complacency toward radical love, inclusion, and welcome. We heed the call to protect, center, and amplify the voices of our community’s most marginalized. Ours and Rising Tide’s unique mission in the world is to continue to unapologetically nudge our community toward ahavat yisrael, unconditional, uncompromising, unyielding love of the Jewish people.
This parting blessing for my beloved Mayyim Hayyim team is one of resilience. May you have the strength, as you have today, to show up proudly, tomorrow, the next day, and the next, proclaiming, “Hineni – here I am. Ready to push, ready to move, ready to shake the world.”
Leah Robbins is now the Administrative Assistant for the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network.