Written by Amy Chartock, National Programs Director
Just when life can feel like it is spinning out of control, something magical happens and I feel centered once again. Do tell, you ask? What’s my trick?
For me, life comes back into focus when I serve as a mikveh guide. Literally, I have two name badges that I can don here at the mikveh, one that reads National Programs Director and the other that refers to me as a mikveh guide. In the course of my work, I train our volunteers, ushering them through the learning process and helping them to acquire all of the knowledge, experience and self confidence to serve as a volunteer mikveh guide. Nothing gives me more pride than to see one of our mikveh guides perform the mitzvah of greeting a guest, guiding him or her through the immersion experience.
As we consult to other communities on building and staffing like minded community mikvaot, my work is sometimes to “train the trainers.” We share curricular materials and advise about its use. I kvell (feel happy and proud) when I witness our own volunteers carrying out this sacred work and feel a different, yet equally intense pride as I watch other communities create this same opportunity for their volunteers.
Just when I feel like I might burst with this pride, I am harkened back to reality. I am asked to take off my National Programs badge, and clip on my Mikveh Guide badge. In addition to my National work, I fill in as a guide when we cannot secure a volunteer. Sure, I have to get up from my desk, save a draft of an email for later, and put whatever I might be up to on hold for a bit. But what a gift this turns out to be for me each time I am called away.
When I (or any guide for that matter) step into the guiding role, I am “there” for the visitor in every way. It is my job to be wholly present, and I will argue “holy present” as well. For that hour, the world around me stands still and I focus, first and foremost, on the needs of the person immersing. This is my chance to perform a mitzvah, holding this space for another, in whatever way he or she needs me to. Really, no email, grant report, or phone conversation is more important or fulfilling than “being there” for a visitor to the mikveh. Having the ability to anticipate and understand the unique needs of each individual guest is what makes our mikveh guides extraordinary, and my own guiding experiences remind me of just how beautiful and intricate of a “dance” guiding is.
For this opportunity, this reality check, I am grateful. Stepping off of the merry-go-round every once in a while feels good. Click here if you want to learn more about becoming a mikveh guide.
Amy Chartock, National Programs Director, is a trained Mikveh Guide. She went on to coordinate Mikveh Guide training within Mayyim Hayyim and, in November, 2008, ran the first national Mikveh Guide Training Seminar for 19 people representing 13communities from across the United States. In spring 2009, she worked with organizational partners (Jewish Milestones and The Jewish Welcome Network) to create a regional cohort of Mikveh Guides in the the San Francisco Bay Area supported by a grant from the Covenant Foundation and The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund. Amy has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brandeis University and a Masters degree in Social Work from Columbia University. Prior to Mayyim Hayyim, she worked with teens at the adolescent OB-GYN clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and with volunteers at theJewish Big Brother and Big Sister Association of Greater Boston.