by Talya Sokoll, Mikveh Guide
A number of years ago, when I moved back to Boston after college in New York, I began the search for Jewish spaces that I felt comfortable and welcome in. As someone who has grown up with a plethora of Jewish experiences, I knew what I liked and what I didn’t. I found places and organizations to spend time with and volunteer for, but none have impacted me quite the way Mayyim Hayyim has. Although I had known about Mayyim Hayyim for years, I had never had a personal experience until I went with my friend during his conversion. He traveled all the way from New York, a place with plenty of mikvaot, because he had heard such wonderful things about this place – that they would be able to create a supporting and welcoming conversion experience for him, a transgender Jew.
The two things I have always highly valued in Jewish spaces (all spaces really) are a commitment to accessibility as well as a constant effort to make their space safe for LGBTQ Jews. Some organizations do one or the other really well, many, unfortunately, do neither, and very few do both.
Mayyim Hayyim, in my opinion, does both of these things really well. And of course, they don’t have to. As an organization, they are not singularly focused on the inclusion of LGBTQ people or on making spaces accessible for all Jews, but actually, they are. All progressive, Jewish organizations should care about creating a welcoming space for their participants, but unfortunately this is not yet a reality.
Inclusion, accessibility, pluralism, making and reinventing a spiritual practice so that all feel welcome to participate, is something that I see Mayyim Hayyim does every single day, organically and without making people feel tokenized.
So that brings me to the title of this piece. I am a high school librarian. I love my job, but I didn’t choose this career for its lucrative salary. I’ve been blessed with this job, this life, and a family who has stressed the importance of giving tzedekah. But unfortunately, I can’t donate everywhere I want to.
So as we begin 2017, and we head into a future more uncertain than ever, I choose to give my money to Mayyim Hayyim, which I know will continue its amazing work throughout the year, educating the Jewish community and creating a space for all Jews to feel a part of an amazing, ancient and current, tradition. You, too, can join me in supporting Mayyim Hayyim now, and throughout the year.
Mayyim Hayyim congratulates Talya on her selection as one of Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ 2017 Chai in the Hub award winners. Mazal tov!
Talya Sokoll is dedicated to being a Person of the Book. She’s a middle school and high school librarian who works to instill a love of reading in the next generation. She’s also involved in Greater Boston Jewish organizations from Mayyim Hayyim to Keshet to Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters—if it involves kids, books, or social justice, she’s there!