by Cantor Jeri Robins
The start of a new year – whether Rosh Hashanah or the school year – is always an opportunity to reflect on the past and look toward the future. One of the things I most look forward to at this time is visiting Mayyim Hayyim. I have been to Mayyim Hayyim as a teacher of sixth graders exploring the role mikveh might play for them as part of a curriculum on Jewish life cycle events. I have been to Mayyim Hayyim as a witness for friends, for both pre-wedding and post-divorce immersions. I have been to Mayyim Hayyim as a clergy person on a Beit Din, as a man completed the steps of becoming Jewish, and observed the pride in the eyes of his wife, sons, and parents. I have also been to Mayyim Hayyim for personal immersions, celebrating my daughter reaching her Bat Mitzvah, emerging from mourning for my mother, and for the High Holidays.
Because of these experiences, and others, I know how important Mayyim Hayyim is in the spiritual life of our community. As the Director of BJEP (the Boston-area Jewish Education Program – pronounced B-jep), we have partnered with Mayyim Hayyim on a number of educational initiatives. Last year, we were a host site for “Water Wonders” – a wonderful STEM-based program for both our K-2 students and members of the community. We read specially-chosen PJ Library books about water, conducted science experiments (if you have never taken Skittles and put them on a plate with water to see what happens, I encourage you to try it), did art projects, sang songs, and, of course, learned the Mayyim (water) dance!
In addition, we are holding our second annual 4th Grade Family Havdalah program at Mayyim Hayyim in February. Being outside the mikveh pools in a beautiful, resonant space while singing the Havdalah blessings as Shabbat ends is a meaningful experience for our families and, afterwards, we enjoy pizza and dessert in the Paula Brody and Family Education Center.
As BJEP began a new school year this month, we have been thinking about the past 50 years serving the Jewish community in the Boston metro area. Brandeis University professors came together in 1967 to build a program dedicated to Jewish learning with classes led by Brandeis students. From Pre-K to 7th grade, BJEP continues to hold classes on the Brandeis campus, as we strive to find ways to help our students and their families learn the many ways one can see the world through Jewish eyes.
One of the things that we take pride in has been our many partnerships, from the Brandeis students who serve as our teachers, to the BJEP parents who volunteer to bring weekly bagels and coffee or step up to serve on our Board, from Powisset Farm in Dover where we participate in a community Sukkot celebration with Ganei Beantown, to our relationship with Mayyim Hayyim. Because we are not a synagogue, we do not have a building of our own, so having resources like Mayyim Hayyim has been a real blessing for us.
We invite you to come and partner with us as we look forward to the next 50 years. We will be hosting several community events in the coming year marking this milestone, starting with a panel discussion called “BJEP Talks: Pass It On!” on November 5th at noon.
As described by a former BJEP parent, “This is not your parent’s Hebrew school.” Indeed, one can say the same thing about Mayyim Hayyim! This is definitely not your mother’s mikveh. This is not your mother’s mikveh.
Cantor Jeri Robins is the Director of BJEP, the Boston-area Jewish Education Program, an unaffiliated K-7 Sunday school that meets on the Brandeis campus. In addition, she serves as one of the cantors at Congregation Mishkan Tefila, teaches 6th grade at Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, and tutors private B’nai Mitzvah students. For the High Holidays, she is the Kol Bo at Congregation Sharah Zedek in Westerly, RI. A Newton resident, Jeri earned her Master’s of Jewish Education and Cantorial Ordination at Hebrew College in 2013 following a career in business.