The Gift of Guiding

by Rene Katersky, Mikveh Guide

As I approach another significant birthday, one ending in “0” (aren’t they all significant at this age?), I have been thinking a lot about the self-imposed benefits of turning another year older.

I am mindful of my desire to say “no” more often…no to things I no longer feel passionate about, to the extraneous, to social events with near strangers, no to what no longer feeds me – and “yes” to what does… that which is personally meaningful, joyous, and fulfilling. Yes to cherished friends, to that which touches my soul, yes to Mayyim Hayyim… to volunteer work which provides enormous blessing.

After more than 7 years as a Mikveh Guide, the honor remains with me. Like other guides, I have my share of memorable moments, and I enjoy reliving them when I get to look through the reflections book kept by the front desk, in which guides can share thoughts about their guiding experiences. What a treasure of description, one which allows you to really understand the impact of what happens at our mikveh. It is never perfectly clear to me who has had the most amazing experiences, our guests, or me!

It was a tremendous honor to guide an older woman through her conversion immersion, witnessed by two friends, with me unexpectedly in the water with her, holding her hand as she made her way down the 7 steps, steadying her as she went to the center of the pool, reassuring her as she completed 3 immersions and became a Jew.

The joy of two young dads and their newborn, along with friends and family embracing them as they began their Jewish family life, is a picture I will not soon forget; another beautiful Mayyim Hayyim moment to savor. How fortunate for me to get to capture them all on film with our Mayyim Hayyim camera, another duty of Mikveh Guides.

I remember chatting with a dad in our waiting area who was so moved by the immersions of his family members that he suddenly, on the spot, asked if we would have time for him to immerse, in solidarity. Of course we did, and we always can. It is what happens here, a lot. One has time to sit quietly in our beautiful space, contemplate what it might mean, and be inspired.

I am always a bit disappointed when I see that my guiding shift doesn’t include scheduled immersions or guests. Yes, I could check the prep rooms for supplies, stuff some envelopes, and complete the all-familiar “holy” laundry, all happily done and necessary, but nothing quite compares to warmly welcoming guests, being present for significant life moments, touring first-time visitors who know nothing of mikveh, or sharing the excitement of welcoming someone into the Jewish people.

I hear there is going to be another training for guides in the coming months. Applications cheerfully accepted and encouraged, and I am available for shadowing!

There is a lot of blessing to go around.

Click here to learn more about becoming part of our newest cohort of Mikveh Guides.

Rene trained with Cohort 5 as a Mikveh Guide and educator and also enjoys her role as an ambassador with Reform Jewish Outreach Boston, continuing to share the joys of our tradition with those new to Judaism. She lives in Scituate, MA with husband Ed, and has 2 grown children and a granddaughter. She has loved living in a beach community for 37 years and enjoys cycling and sharing joyous moments with cherished friends and family.


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