by Lisa Berman, Mikveh and Education Director
Q: How do you know if you are succeeding at running a warm, welcoming, open-minded mikveh?
A: You get a lot of really interesting phone calls and you love answering them.
In my role as Mikveh (& Education) Director at Mayyim Hayyim, I love fielding calls because inevitably it is someone with a fascinating and often emotional story, often seeking our guidance. The answers to these calls are as varied as the situations. Here’s a continued sampling from the past month:
To read Part I, click here.
Caller: “I’m a rabbi and am working with a transgender individual for conversion. I know there are many issues to consider so that she has a completely positive experience at her conversion, but I have no idea what these concerns might be or how to address them. Do you know anything about this?”
Me: We certainly do. I’ve shared your contact information with four clergy who have supervised conversions here for transgender individuals; I’ll bet they will be happy to share their experience with you. And here are three of our blog posts that depict one special conversion here at Mayyim Hayyim: perspectives from the transgender conversion candidate, her rabbi, and her mikveh guide.
Caller: “I recently learned – as a young adult — that my parents were Jewish. I didn’t know, and I wasn’t brought up Jewish, but I have been drawn to the religion my whole life. I understand a lot of things about my upbringing now that were mysteries to me before. I’ve been searching for a way to mark my father’s yahrzeit in a few weeks. Now I think that immersing in a mikveh would help me come to terms with these challenging changes. Could I immerse to mark this new realization?”
Me: What an amazing story. It sounds as if you have a lot to think about. Since you’re learning so much about your family, I’d like to suggest some resources that might provide you with additional support, including contact information for a few welcoming synagogues in your area, a clergy member who would be happy to meet with you, and the website for a Community Mikveh in your area. I hope you’ll stay in touch.
Caller: “I’m not Orthodox but I’ve been going to the mikveh regularly for a while – as long as I’ve been in a committed relationship. We moved to western Massachusetts recently and I called our local mikveh and even though I’m getting married in two and a half weeks, they told me I can’t go there because I’m not married yet. I’m so upset! I’m going to drive the two hours each way to get to Mayyim Hayyim because you’re all so nice there and you make me feel welcome. If there’s bad traffic on the way, will it be okay if I’m a little late?”
Me: (Surely by now you know our answer to this one…)
Lisa Berman is the Mikveh and Education Director at Mayyim Hayyim, ensuring that all immersions are facilitated with dignity, respect and modest, and supervising the Paula Brody & Family Education Center.