My first witnessed immersion experience at Mayyim Hayyim was a remarkably extraordinary event. Personally, it was an affirmation of my role as a mikveh guide.
I volunteered to become a mikveh guide because I wanted to take a more active role within my Jewish community that reflected not only my commitment to the preservation our traditions but also to deepen my spiritual connection to God as to what in means to be a Jew. I also wanted to be of service to my community as well as of particular service to those who like me are Jews of color. Jews of color are not very visible in the community and I wanted to participate more in Jewish public life in ways that showed us visually as committed and fully participant in Jewish life activities. Being a part of Mayyim Hayyim has allowed me to the opportunity to realize this. My selection as a mikveh guide signified to me the embrace of my Jewishness and a visible expression of the inclusiveness of our community that recognizes Jews from every walk of life.
When I arrived at Mayyim Hayyim for my first immersion as a mikveh guide, I don’t think anyone knew in advance among the staff that the candidate who was to immerse for conversion was a Jew of color and I didn’t know until I saw the candidate come out from the Beit Din (a rabbinical “court” of Judaism). I thought what a pleasant surprise for a Jew of color to help facilitate the conversion immersion for another Jew of color. Not only that, but one of the Rabbis on the Beit Din was the Rabbi who officiated my wedding! He was as pleasantly surprised to see me as I was to see him. It was great to see him again and reconnect. These coincidences heightened the significance of the ceremony which I took to be a reassuring validation of why I was there to perform my initiating role as a mikveh guide. It was if God was speaking to me through this entire experience.
I was not informed that my participation would have been appropriate because of the circumstances or participants involved. I did not volunteer to shadow my mentor on that particular day because I knew in advance what the circumstances were. I would expect if such a circumstance were known in advance that I would have been encouraged to witness and act as a guide for such an event. Could it be, I thought, that the cycle of events that led to this moment were orchestrated by an unseen hand?
The immersion itself was a wonderful and unforgettable experience. Preparing the immersee for the ritual immersion, witnessing the immersion, pronouncing “kasher!” (to be kosher) welcoming a fellow Jew into the community, even the chore of cleaning the preparation area afterward took on special meaning for me. After the ceremony where we sat to confirm the conversion ceremony, Benyamin and I had a good conversation about our Jewish experience as Jews of color. As a widely traveled man, it was evident that he was knowledgeable of the wide dimension and diversity of Jews of color all over the world. In a certain sense we were bonding and celebrating. As a result of my overall training generally, and this first experience in particular, I feel a special sense of purpose, confidence and empowerment to serve as a mikveh guide. I think that everyone there both staff and participants felt that the convergence of people, place, and time made this special event something uniquely special. It is just amazing to me that what I could only imagine as something I wanted to be a part of could be embarked upon so immediately after my siyyum.
I am privileged to be part of an organization whose mission embraces Jewish diversity. Words cannot describe what a deeply rewarding experience this was for me. I look forward serving in my role as a mikveh guide and educator.
Sidney Louis Davis, Jr., born in Kittery, Maine is a retired decorated Naval Petty Officer. He is a member of Temple Israel Congregation in Boston and lives in Roxbury, Massachusetts with his wife Linda. In July 2012 he was named Prince Eluemuno of Iduu Eri Kingdom and appointed by Eze A.E. Chukwuemeka Eri, Eze Ora 34th of Aguleri, the Aka Ji Ovo Igbo and the traditional ruler of Enugwu Aguleri, Nigeria as the USA Director of the Ebo (Igbo) Landing Project.