by Alon Neidich
“This is why we came to America,” my grandmother whispered to my mother as she graduated from medical school.
My grandparents fled Europe under the horrors of pogroms and persecution, my mother born in New York and my Abba (father) in a nascent Israel – each of their homes grounded in Jewish traditions, but scarred from terrors of antisemitism.
When I got engaged, my fiance, Julia, and I enrolled in an Introduction to Judaism course offered by Reform Jewish Outreach Boston to connect, or rather, reconnect, with our Jewish heritage. One class during the fall, we drove out to Mayyim Hayyim for a field trip. We looked at each other with skepticism: “A mikveh?” Neither of us had been to a mikveh nor did we know what would a mikveh look like.
Our adventure started with Leeza Negelev, Mayyim Hayyim’s Associate Director of Education, leading a discussion that covered all our pressing questions: What is a mikveh? Why here in Boston? What are its traditional uses? What is its role in modern Jewish practice? And, more practically, what role will it play in our Jewish life?
We listened, we questioned, and ultimately, we found that this kosher mikveh sincerely embodies a 21st-century pluralism: deeply respectful of our Jewish roots, eager to evolve, but never forgetful of our past. Here, it doesn’t matter where you come from. If you are a Jew, you are welcome.
Later, Julia immersed for her conversion at Mayyim Hayyim; what a joyous day it was. Sooner after, Julia and I immersed before our wedding to mark this transition with private moments of reflection before the ruach (spirit) of the wedding rushed in. Quiet, peaceful, and full of boundless love.
Thank you, Mayyim Hayyim, for being there unconditionally – for allowing us to reflect, to meditate, and to appreciate life in all its glory. This is what we came to America for.
Alon B. Neidich lives in the South End of Boston with his wife, Julia A. Connolly. Alon is an Internal Medicine resident at Mount Auburn Hospital, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School located in Cambridge. Alon enjoys swimming, playing the cello, traveling, and rooting for both the San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox! Julia is a Program Coordinator for Medical Education at Harvard Medical School. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and curling up with a good book.