How to Punctuate a Transition

Written By Aliza Kline, Founding Executive Director of Mayyim Hayyim

About 10 days ago I had the opportunity to teach about Mayyim Hayyim to first-year students at the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College.  I love teaching seminary students; they are eager to learn and find connections between their personal spiritual journey and Jewish practice.  With just under an hour for our class, we got right to it – talking about why we incorporate ritual into our lives, why mikveh is fitting for our times and how to address and then navigate the many potential barriers to ritual immersion. I also slipped in some best practices for ritual facilitation and the role of clergy in supporting the immersion of a congregant. I love telling Mayyim Hayyim’s story. I love seeing people “get it” for the first time.

This was my first time teaching since announcing my upcoming transition from Mayyim Hayyim this August. My family and I will be moving to New York to begin a new chapter in September 2012.  This transition, like many significant life-changes, is fraught with mixed emotions: excitement, fear, sadness, joy, confidence and loss. As I explained to the HUC students, mikveh is essentially a ritual that marks transitions.  It provides a physical, emotional and spiritual opportunity – kind of a punctuation mark to acknowledge the change.  If I immersed today, I suppose it would be a comma or maybe semi-colon – marking a transition in process, not yet complete. Perhaps if I immerse on my last day it will be a period to mark the end of an 11-year journey with Mayyim Hayyim. Maybe more of an exclamation mark to demonstrate how emotional this moment is or perhaps an ellipsis indicating a sort of “to be continued” sense…

I am not sure yet. I am sure that despite the real pain involved in leaving an organization and a community so close to my heart I am reassured by reading our blog posts, talking with our stellar staff and lay leadership, and knowing that Mayyim Hayyim continues to warmly welcome and support everyone who wishes to enter with sensitivity and sanctity. Period. Heck, !!!

Aliza Kline, Founding Executive Director, has led Mayyim Hayyim from its initial stages, overseeing fund raising, publicity, design, construction, staffing, recruiting volunteers, and board development. In May, 2009, Aliza was awarded an AVI CHAI Fellowship (best described as the “Jewish MacArthur Genius Grant”) in recognition of her accomplishments, creativity and commitment to the Jewish people.


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