by Carrie Bornstein, Executive Director
The Mayyim Hayyim community has lost a beloved teacher as Cookie Rosenbaum, zichrona l’vracha (may her memory be a blessing), has passed away.
Cookie was one of my first teachers at Mayyim Hayyim. When I trained to become a volunteer Mikveh Guide in 2006, she taught, “Preparation, Niddah, and Bridal Immersions” to our group of fifteen participants. Sharing the intricacies of monthly immersion following menstruation, how visitors may determine when the bleeding has ended, and why many women follow this observance, Cookie served as a first impression of sorts to many in our group whose experience with the topic was limited. Her no-nonsense and open approach modeled exactly the kind of education we promote at Mayyim Hayyim, honoring and cherishing the differences among the Jewish people. I remember Cookie’s sharp wit, her straightforwardness, and her keen sense of humor (though I’m not sure she was necessarily trying to be funny…).
She taught scores of our volunteers (in addition to my own mother many years earlier, I later discovered) and I feel confident that they each hold their own special memories of learning from her. Cookie agreed to teach year after year, joined the planning committee for our 2010 Gathering the Waters International Mikveh Conference, and served as a resource at any hour of the day or night to our guests and Mikveh Guides for questions related to immersion and Jewish law.
The thing I admired most about Cookie, though, was her willingness to cut through politics for the sake of her beliefs. Cookie was one of the first Orthodox leaders to publicly align herself with Mayyim Hayyim. Though Mayyim Hayyim has always been a community mikveh, and halacha – a commitment to traditional legal standards for the building and maintenance of the collection and immersion pools – has always been one of our seven guiding principles, it was not always the case that leaders in the Orthodox community were willing to openly associate with us. Before Mayyim Hayyim even opened, Cookie was inspired by our mission and wanted to be a part of our success. With dedication, passion, and love, Cookie was an exemplar of openness whose impact still reverberates throughout our organization.
As Cookie told the Forward in 2006 when planning her own immersion at Mayyim Hayyim to close her chapter on infertility and mark the onset of menopause, “There isn’t one right way to do things that happen in life.”
Amen, Cookie. Amen. Your memory is already a blessing.
Carrie Bornstein is the Executive Director at Mayyim Hayyim.