Ten Years Later…

It’s been nearly ten years since Mayyim Hayyim founder Anita Diamant published the essay “Why I Want a Mikveh” in The Water’s Edge—our early print newsletter.  As we near the end of 2011, it’s amazing to reread these words and see just how much of her initial dream for a mikveh and education center has come true.

If you are in town this Thursday, 12/22, join us from 5:30 – 6:30pm when we dedicate  our beautiful new archway, graced with these words, in honor of Anita’s 60th birthday.

Why I want a Mikveh

By Anita Diamant

I want a mikveh. Not my own personal mikveh in the backyard, but a community mikveh that I can call my own.

There are mikva’ot (the plural of mikveh) in town, of course. I went to the other mikveh as a bride, and before that, for the conversion of my groom.  But it was at another conversion a few years ago that I fully understood why that place could not be “my” mikveh. It was a weekday afternoon, and candidates for conversion by the liberal community were lined up for their turns in the water. In a way, it was inspiring to see a dozen women, men, and children waiting to become Jews. But in truth, the mikveh is no place for an outdoors queue. There was no time for contemplation or the singing of a song with all those people standing in the hot sun.

Given the limited hours available for non-Orthodox conversions, there is almost never a way for rabbis to lead each new Jew through a thoughtful, personal ritual, nor is there space for even a brief celebration afterwards.

But I have to say that this longing for a mikveh to has less to do with questions of justice and access — although these are genuine concerns. The reason I really want a mikveh is to explore the possibilities of what a community mikveh could lead to — as a place, as an idea, as a mitzvah.

I want a mikveh that encourages the prayers of the heart in Jews of every denomination and description. Thus I want a mikveh that is kosher in every dimension, that follows all Halachic requirements regarding shape, space, the collection of natural water, maintenance. I want a mikveh that respects the modesty of the people who visit.

I also want a mikveh that is beautiful in design and decoration. I want it to be a welcoming and inviting place, from the minute you walk through the door.  A place for laughter and mazel tovs, with a gracious room in which to celebrate with brides and grooms, a place for the newly Jewish to raise a glass of wine.

I want a mikveh where Jews can physically enact the profound process of teshuva – of turning toward God — in the days prior to Yom Kippur, and on Shabbat. A mikveh where women can explore the intimate mitzvah of monthly immersion, and for women to use for a place for study and celebration on Rosh Hodesh.

This mikveh will be run by a teacher, a community educator who will reach out to synagogues and schools to explain the uses and possibilities of the mayyim hayyim, the “living water.” She will welcome the entire Jewish community.

I am not the only one who wants this mikveh. People are embracing this idea with enthusiasm and making it their own. This dream is shared by rabbis, cantors, educators, movement leaders, federation leaders, people involved in Jewish healing, and laypeople, especially women – and that includes women who affiliate with Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Orthodox synagogues, and those who are unaffiliated.

And now, the dream is a reality called Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center, Inc. This first newsletter describes how far we’ve already come in a very short time. It also maps out ambitious plans for the future.

“My” mikveh is about to become a reality. It is happening not because I want a mikveh. But because the need is great and the opportunity is here, and most of all, because we Jews want it and need it.


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