by Leeza Negelev, Associate Director of Education
After my education program with Temple Emunah two weeks ago, I went looking through our records for primary source materials about our mechanical lift. I came across a very moving letter we received from Rabbi Peter Stein. In this letter, Rabbi Stein writes about how he was able to share mikveh immersion as a way for his congregant to mark a transition to the end of his life. I wish I’d had it on hand to read to the students in that group of 6th graders from Temple Emunah, whose minds were so clearly ready to learn about accessibility. We hope you enjoy this letter; it is a stirring example of what is possible when steps are taken to eliminate potential barriers to Jewish ritual.
For ease of reading, we’ve also transcribed the letter here:
Thank you so much for enabling me to bring my congregant, Stephen Grubman Black, to the mikveh earlier this week. As you know, Steve has entered hospice care as his cancer continues to progress, and he has suffered terribly from pain and increased disability. Bringing him to the mikveh was an extraordinary experience for him, bringing him peace and comfort, and was also an extraordinary opportunity for me as his rabbi.
I am deeply grateful for all the kindness and sensitivity that was exhibited by you, Michael, and all the others who made this possible. The ability to use the lift was essential, and Steve felt comfortable and supported throughout his immersion. I don’t think I have all the right words to say how special and important it was to offer something physical like this to nourish Steve’s spirit during his illness. It is an entirely different kind of support than the intellectual and emotional support that is generally extended to the sick.
I feel very lucky that you and the other leaders of Mayyim Hayyim are doing such creative, beautiful, and inspirational work. Under ordinary circumstances, nothing like this creative immersion and healing ritual would have been possible, and I thank you for all that you have done. It is truly an act of chesed shel emet, sacred love and kindness. As I watched and listened to Steve during the immersion, I knew that together we created a genuinely sacred moment for him.
Thank you so very much for all that you have done, and all that you and the entire mikveh staff and volunteers continue to do. I look forward to sharing more special times together in the future.
Rabbi Peter W. Stein
Rabbi Peter Stein is senior rabbi of Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, NY and the former rabbi of Temple Sinai in Cranston, RI. Rabbi Stein was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. His undergraduate studies were at Cornell University, and he also completed the Jewish Leaders Program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.