Whenever you start work at a new place there is an adjustment period. You have to learn exactly how you are going to operate amongst the other employees, pick up the office culture, and get acclimated to your physical surroundings. This would take some adjustment for any person. For me, though, starting work at Mayyim Hayyim took this to a new level because there are two very different things about me from every other staff member. I am not only a man, I am not Jewish.
Now for those who are concerned about having a male, protestant working at the Mikveh, fear not. I do not perform any ceremonial nor religious duties. I am not performing baptisms in the mikveh nor am I proselytizing the word of Jesus Christ. I perform more secular tasks like printing forms, writing emails, and signing for office supplies.
Within the past two weeks I have been interacting frequently with a lot of different folks in the Jewish community working on the Mayyim Hayyim’s recent event honoring Anita Diamant. When I am talking to someone and start discussing the part of my background that is not Jewish, I will get a range of different reactions. Sometimes a chuckle, sometimes a raised eyebrow, but always followed by the question so how did you end up here? There are a million different answers I could give (the longest being in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…). For this post, I thought I would take a different turn.
As I was looking for work this past summer, I came across a listing for this office assistant position completely by chance. As a dutiful job candidate, I researched Mayyim Hayyim and was fascinated by what I discovered. The notion of a mikveh was something I had never even heard before. I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable about Judaism for a gentile having grown up in a small town in Northern New Jersey with a sizable Jewish population and the Best Bagel shop in the Tristate area.
This isn’t an opinion, its a fact
As I researched and then talked with Carrie Bornstein about the organization, I began to see connections in my own faith that I had never thought of nor had anyone ever told me before. The biggest connection was the story of Jesus and John the Baptist which many Christians think is one of the biggest moments in the life of Jesus. The summary of the story is that Jesus marks the beginning of his entire ministry by being baptized in the Jordan river and upon emerging from the water sees the Holy Spirit (God) descend in the form of a dove.
This story takes on new meaning for me as I do not see it as a man joining a new faith, but a Jewish man who is immersing in living water to mark a major change in his life. This is a humble man, who has decided to forsake being a carpenter and begin a difficult journey. For this difficult transition, he decides to follow custom and immerse to mark this change in his life. Regardless as to whether or not the Christian authors are correct about the Holy Spirit descending down, it is clear that this event changed him. He was touched by God to go out and do good works in the world. Having been here for a couple months now, I have seen people come out of immersing with a renewed sense of purpose and better understanding of their lives.
Why do I work at Mayyim Hayyim? Because this organization has helped me and others to explore our faiths, whatever those faiths may be.
Walton Clark is Mayyim Hayyim’s office assistant and jack of all trades. He is a 2011 graduate cum laude of Tulane University as well as an alum of City Year Boston. He is a working musician in Boston, playing keyboard and writing songs in a variety of groups. You can follow him @walt_twitwalker.