Out of the Margins and Into the Water

Accessibility and Inclusion

by Sandy Slavet, Mikveh Guide

Each of us who comes to the waters of Mayyim Hayyim is called by a voice from within: a voice that awakens our souls to the possibility of transformation. It is a voice that recalls an ancient Jewish ritual and that is as new as every breath we take.

I first decided to become a Mikveh Guide at Mayyim Hayyim knowing that I wanted to guide others into to the warmth and safety of the water. As an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, I wanted Mayyim Hayyim to be a place where access would not depend solely on spoken language. I knew I could support that access.

But I soon realized that there are others who would come to Mayyim Hayyim to mark their own important moments who might need a little extra support: people with unique and perhaps unconventional ways of communicating. For some, spoken or visual language is challenging. For others, understanding instructions and following directions is difficult. Sometimes immersing in water is scary. Experiencing Jewish rituals is unfamiliar.

At Mayyim Hayyim these challenges become opportunities. I have had the honor to guide and support individuals with developmental disabilities and autism who came not only to learn about mikveh but to immerse to mark important moments in their lives. Six adults in their 40’s and 50’s who had never been able to study Jewish texts or been called to the Torah as thirteen-year-olds, came to immerse just before their adult B’nai Mitzvah.

My own daughter came to mark ‘turning 22’ (a very big transformation in the life of someone with developmental disabilities). These are Jews who come to Mayyim Hayyim to take their place in line behind so many others who have come to this mikveh to mark special moments. At Mayyim Hayyim, I have been blessed to guide these Jewish adults from the margins of Jewish life into the water.. into the center… where we all belong.

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Sandy Slavet is the Director of Jewish Life Services for People with Disabilities at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. She is also a nationally certified ASL Interpreter. Sandy serves on the Board of Directors of Synagogue Council of MA, South Shore Mental Health and is the President Elect of Temple Sinai of Sharon. She has been a Mikveh Guide at Mayyin Hayyim since 2006. Sandy and her husband, Joe Strazzulla, have four wonderful daughters and are the adoring grandparents of Rowen, Shiloh and Grace. 

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