It’s often night time when I enter to guide at the mikveh. I turn on the lights, lower the shades, and enjoy the stillness for a brief time until the first woman arrives. Sometimes there’s only one; other evenings there are four to six immersions.
Most of the women I meet in the evening – and there are only women in the evening – come regularly for niddah. After not having relations with their partners during menstruation, and for some, a certain number of days after, women will come immerse in the mikveh, and afterwards, resume relations. Some are Orthodox, many are not. Some have so enjoyed their first immersion experience at Mayyim Hayyim, as brides or converts, that they’ve decided to assume the practice regularly. From time to time a woman who is visiting family or attending a local conference when it’s her time to immerse, is welcomed here as well. Some are same sex couples who immerse monthly.
After volunteering at the mikveh for eleven years, I’ve come to know many of the women whom I see often. I know the ones who require an extra towel, the ones who don’t want to be witnessed, others who want a witness when they dunk, but not when they enter or leave the pool area, and so on. I have respect and affection for the women who have assumed this monthly responsibility, and I enjoy catering to their needs.
During summer hours, the mikveh opens at 8:30 pm and those of us who serve at night, often don’t leave until the parking lot is empty. By the time we tend to the laundry, re-stock the prep rooms and turn off the lights, it’s often 10:30 or 11 o’clock.
Over thirty percent of the immersions at Mayyim Hayyim are for niddah. Serving the needs of women who come monthly is the prime function of many mikva’ot, and it is an important reason for the existence of Mayyim Hayyim, as well.
Gail Elson is a retired speech and language therapist. She also taught English as a Second Language. Her hobbies include walking, reading, and rowing. Gail has been a Mikveh Guide since she joined the first cohort of guides eleven years ago.