In The Thick of It

By Aliza Kline, Mayyim Hayyim Founding Executive Director

“Mikveh is fundamentally about marking transitions.” This is the line I have said countless times over the last decade when teaching about Mayyim Hayyim. We all can relate to this. We all go through transitions, large and small, every year, every month, every day – sometimes it feels like every minute.  And we need a way to mark these transitions, so that they don’t slip away, unnoticed. So that we can learn from them, grow from them. Appreciate them.

I am doing my best to appreciate the flow of transitions in my life right now. It’s not easy. Rituals can mark those transitions that might otherwise be neglected by offering a framework for understanding or contextualizing the transitions. So here I am, in my last few days of an extraordinary sabbatical in Israel with my family.  So far we’ve participated in three “tekesei predah,” or separation rituals. They’ve ranged from parties in our home, to Torah reading in our oldest daughter’s second grade class, to Kabbalat Shabbat in our middle daughter’s gan (school). Each gathering offers food, community, blessings. Israelis don’t miss an opportunity to celebrate or commemorate.  I feel lucky to be in a place where it is simply a given that this transition will be marked – with as much intention as possible.

But this transition is not simply that of leaving Israel after 10 months. It’s about returning home, to Boston, in a new role. It’s about walking into a transition that’s already midstream. Mayyim Hayyim has wisely selected and introduced an incoming executive director, the very able Carrie Bornstein. Several new, talented staff members and board members have joined our ranks. New programs have sprung up.  My role as outgoing executive director is less defined; it’s a bit murky.  I will be there to support the organizational transition, to offer as much history as is helpful. To meet with and thank Mayyim Hayyim’s friends and partners.

Our home is officially for sale, ready to welcome in a new family to mark their own milestones in its lovely wood paneled dining room. An apartment I’ve never seen awaits us in Brooklyn, NY.  A day school is prepared for our daughters’ enrollment. Potential professional opportunities are there to be explored.  Our NY-based family is planning meals, holiday celebrations.

Perhaps each tekes predah here in Israel is all the more intense, because it marks not only this immediate transition from Israel, but the beginning of a stream of transitions – leading my family to a new chapter in our story.

We’ve scheduled an immersion for our family the day we arrive in Boston.   I am not certain if we will be fully awake after our international journey – but I know that I need a ritual framework to help me realize the full extent of this transition.  My husband Bradley, and our girls, Ela, Gila and Nomi, remember fondly our immersion before embarking on this adventure in late August.  While this next immersion is not quite a bookend—our journey is far from complete—it will give us a “tekes hazarah” – a returning ritual.

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.

Click here to learn how you can help say thank you and farewell to Aliza.


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