Wanting it to “Work:” Healing from Charlottesville

Healing, Men

by Bryan Mann

I came to immerse after standing with a group of clergy against white supremacy in Charlottesville during the “Unite the Right” march. I have never experienced trauma like this and am so grateful Mayyim Hayyim could offer a space to begin the healing process. Thank you so much! “Thank you” feels so insufficient for the level of my gratitude.

These are the words I wrote in the Mayyim Hayyim guestbook on August 17, 2017. Five days earlier, I had been in Charlottesville, VA to protest the Unite the Right rally. Two days later, I marched alongside friends to confront white supremacy on the Boston Common.

Prior to this immersion experience, I did not (and still don’t) have a regular mikveh practice. Immediately upon my return from Charlottesville, I thought, “I’ll ask my friends to do a singing and healing circle.” It wasn’t until a friend suggested I might want to immerse as a way of healing that going to Mayyim Hayyim first crossed my mind.

I was hesitant about a lot of things related to this immersion. I really wanted it to “work.” I’m not sure I even knew what this ritual “working” would mean until I got on the phone with Mayyim Hayyim’s Mikveh and Education Director, Lisa Berman. The first words she said to me were, “Hi Bryan, how can I be helpful today?”

Photo: Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share

Prior to this moment, those who were not in Charlottesville with me wanted to know what I experienced. Family members wanted to debate the politics behind white supremacist ideology. Colleagues, mentors, friends, and my inner rabbinical-student-and-activist self wanted me to show up to the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s Interfaith Gathering of Unity, Love, and Strength, which was a vigil to mark the desecration of the Holocaust memorial, and to the Fight Supremacy Rally.

I fell into a trap that many of us do, the one that says, “I don’t have time to stop and take care of myself. There is too much to do, and I need to be the one to do it.”

When Lisa asked, “How can I be helpful?” I asked myself, “What do I need?” for the first time since August 12th. The immersion ended up a mixture of songs that bring me strength and healing and excerpts from Mayyim Hayyim’s Healing Immersion Ceremony.

I went to the mikveh hoping that I would dip, it would “work,” and that would be that. I would be all healed and ready to move on with my life. The pain of what I experienced on August 12th in Charlottesville would be behind me. Of course, this is not how trauma works. There is no “one dip and done” when it comes to healing from these experiences. My immersion did, however, begin the healing process.

From the moment Lisa picked up the phone through the time of my immersion and immediately following, I paid closer attention to my needs. I gave myself permission not to repeat the story of what I’d witnessed in Charlottesville, not to go to the rally/protest/organizing meeting, but instead, to take time for myself, to begin to heal.

Bryan Mann is in his final year at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College and currently works as a Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Mishkan Tefila with a focus on social justice. He is connected to Jewish, poetry, and queer communities in the Boston area including Moishe Kavod House, If You Can Feel It You Can Speak It, and Queeraoke.




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