I was raised Jewish, I learned about the mikveh in Hebrew school. And like a lot of other things I learned in Hebrew school it didn’t stick with me. Then last summer, I interned at Mayyim Hayyim and I was reintroduced to the mikveh. It changed how I view and experience the Jewish world. The day after I graduated from University of Delaware I went on a spontaneous trip backpacking through Europe for a month. This trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and I was able to see a lot of Jewish history throughout Europe.
While I was in Berlin, I decided it was important to take all the lessons I learned about Nazi Germany and see it in person. I went to Oranienburg Concentration Camp. It was one of the smaller camps that I had not heard about before, but it was a powerful and moving day for me. I also traveled to Prague while on my trip. There is a ton of Jewish history in Prague and I spent a whole day in the Jewish quarter. I went to the Pinkas Synagogue, where the names of Czech and Moravian Jews who were victims of Nazi genocide are inscribed on the walls. The synagogue is a memorial to over 80,000 men, women and children who were killed. The names in the synagogue are written one after another and I walked slowly through reading names. Every wall of the synagogue was covered with names of somebody’s loved ones.
I then met up with my tour guide to go see the historical mikveh. Before working at Mayyim Hayyim I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it, but now that I knew so much I was curious to see it. The mikveh dates back to the early 16th century and was discovered during an archaeological survey in the 1970s. It was deep in the ground because the streets had been raised, so the water level was much lower than it originally was. It was fed by a stream and heated by a fire place. It was very interesting for me to see the historical mikveh and before Mayyim Hayyim I would have missed this awesome part of Prague history.
Samantha Testa was a Development intern at Mayyim Hayyim last summer and has been back to visit on several occasions. She is a recent graduate of the University of Delaware and is looking for non-profit work in the Greater Boston area.