Creating Light

By Rabbi Matthew Berger, Rabbi at Temple Emanuel                                                               

On December 22, 2011, the 2nd day of Hanukkah, I accompanied two of my conversion students, Leonarda and Zechariah, to Mayyim Hayyim for their Beit Din (court of three) and T’vilah (immersion). This remarkable couple, originally from Puerto Rico, chose to convert to Judaism together – a journey begun over two decades ago in San Juan. I had been working with Leonarda and Zechariah for more than a year and knew that their hearts and their minds were in the right place. They were ready to take the final seven steps (the number of steps leading to the bottom of a mikveh pool) toward becoming Jewish.

Though I have been to Mayyim Hayyim well over a dozen times in the past few years, I am always truly impressed by the beauty of the facility, the kavanah (intention), the wonderful mikveh guides, and the dedicated professional staff. These things truly set Mayyim Hayyim apart and creates= an atmosphere of warmth and welcome. Having a non-denominational mikveh in a Jewish community is a real blessing for me as a rabbi and for the Jewish community as a whole.

This was a truly remarkable experience. I was honored to be present for Leonarda and Zechariah’s Beit Din, mikveh immersion, and the conversion service held two days later on Shabbat Miketz at Temple Emanuel in Worcester, MA.

Rabbi Berger is a native of New England and an avid Red Sox fan. He was raised in Longmeadow, MA where his family affiliated with Sinai Temple, a Reform congregation. He attended Emory University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In May 2003, he was ordained as a rabbi by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Reform) in Cincinnati, Ohio. While at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Berger also received a Masters of Education with a specialization in Jewish Education.

Rabbi Berger is an accomplished musician and composes Jewish liturgical music with voice and guitar. He regularly spends two weeks as faculty at Crane Lake Camp in the Berkshires. Since July 2009 he has served Temple Emanuel, a Reform congregation in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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Mayyim Hayyim is a 21st century creation, a mikveh rooted in ancient tradition, reinvented to serve the Jewish community of today
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