by Amber Caulkins, Director, Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about what makes a mikveh welcoming: a place that invites you in, makes you feel that you belong, and gives you the space to have a meaningful experience. These thoughts haven’t emerged out of the blue, of course. I work for a mikveh, I was hired to help build a network of mikva’ot, and I have immersed in the mikveh for a variety of reasons.
After visiting several different mikva’ot since joining the Mayyim Hayyim team last year, and having talked to many more staff and volunteers in mikveh communities from all over the country, one thing has become clear to me: welcoming looks and feels different for everyone and at every place.
I recently visited one of our Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network core partners, Libi Eir Awakened Heart Community Mikveh in Raleigh, N.C., where I had the opportunity, along with my colleague, Leeza Negelev, to meet with some of the dedicated staff and volunteers who make Libi Eir a welcoming place for their community.
I was struck by how the space embodied a sense of community. The entrance displayed gifts from the community, the artwork on the walls made the atmosphere beautiful, and there was a table decorated by Mikveh Guides. At Libi Eir, you could feel the loving attention that had been given to make this space feel like it belonged to the community.
During our visit, Leeza and I spoke with a group of Mikveh Guides who shared with us that they felt a sense of shared ownership for Libi Eir in making sure that their mikveh meet the needs of each guest. We talked with the Education Director at Beth Meyer Synagogue where Libi Eir is housed, and learned about the curriculum they had created to enable students at their religious school to grow up knowledgeable about the ritual of immersion. We met with their mikveh operator and facilities leader, who has gone above and beyond in making sure that their mikveh is operating smoothly and following all city ordinances (in addition to being kosher).
My trip to Libi Eir gave me a chance to see what welcoming looks like at their mikveh, and got me thinking about what welcoming will look like for other Rising Tide community members around the world. I am incredibly thankful for the time Mikveh Director Rabbi Jenny Solomon and her community took to welcome us and to share their mikveh stories with us.
Amber Caulkins is the Director of the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network, and she can’t wait to build this welcoming mikveh movement across the Jewish world.