One of Mayyim Hayyim’s seven principles is ahavat yisrael – love of the Jewish people. For us, ahavat yisrael means honoring and cherishing the differences among Jews of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds; particularly Jews of Color, Indigenous, Sephardi, and Mizrahi Jews (JOCISM), and others who have been marginalized in broader Jewish community. As such, anti-racism work is deeply connected to our mission, and an important part of our everyday work.
Mayyim Hayyim is committed to the long-term work of identifying and addressing the ways systemic racism and racial bias impacts our work. As part of our strategic plan, the Mayyim Hayyim board seeks for our organization to become more a more diverse and equitable space through deep, authentic, and integrated engagement with diversity, equity, and inclusion. We understand it is exploitative to expect JOCISM individuals to give time and expertise for free and endeavor to pay our racial justice partners. We strive for transparency in this work, and invite your feedback on what we’ve done and where we can improve.
Where we are
In 2017, Mayyim Hayyim expanded its commitment to welcome and inclusion by creating a Racial Justice Task Force. This group sought to better understand and address how white privilege and implicit racial biases undermine our work to offer a vibrant, diverse, and accessible place for ritual and learning. We know that Mayyim Hayyim could – and should – better represent the full diversity of the Jewish community. In 2020, after the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, Mayyim Hayyim released our first public statement about our Racial Justice Task Force’s work.
Since 2017 we have:
- Added hair care products recommended by Jews of color to all mikveh preparation rooms
- Added information, stories, and context about Sephardi/Mizrahi mikveh ritual to our lessons and online resources
- Received funding from Combined Jewish Philanthropies in 2019 to hire Rosa Blumenfeld as a Racial Justice consultant and organizer, and, in partnership with Kavod’s JOCISM Caucus devoted our annual Knocking at Our Hearts program to centering Sephardi/Mizrahi content and Jews of Color
- Recruited our most diverse volunteer Mikveh Guide cohort
- Received support from The Miriam Fund for programming specifically geared towards Jewish women of color
Our ongoing work
Mayyim Hayyim’s staff and board are currently undergoing anti-racism training and developing a community action plan with Gamal Palmer. We have also translated blessings and other ritual resources into Spanish, which will be formatted for public use.
Some of our plans for the future include: creating an immersion ceremony for healing from racial violence, increasing educational offerings that focus on JOCISM content, visibility, and culture, and increasing the diversity of our staff and board.
We will continue to update the community, and this page, with our ongoing efforts.
- For immersion ceremonies and spiritual direction from Rosa Blumenfeld, an Indigenous Muisca woman raised Jewish: www.reclaimingindigeneity.com
- Kavod JOCISM: https://www.kavodboston.org/jocism
- Jewish Social Justice Roundtable: https://www.jewishsocialjustice.org/