Sometimes it takes only a few words, a glance or a change in posture to profoundly alter one’s perspective on what is happening. Yesterday I had such an experience while I was at Mayyim Hayyim, participating in the conversion of a three month old baby in the dual roles of Beit Din (panel of at least 3 Jewish people, with at least 1 Rabbi, to judge a conversion) member and Mikveh Guide.
I was the first member of the Beit Din to arrive, I introduced myself and had the opportunity to meet and orient the family. Later, I stood in the kitchen area, having an informal conversation with the grandmother. She told me about the guests who accompanied them. She talked about her husband. This was the second marriage for both of them. And then, without a break in the conversation, she told me that her first husband had been abusive. She then went on to tell me more about her current husband and what a fine person he was.
While I was still outwardly listening to her, I had taken a step back. Had I heard her correctly? Yes. I remembered her looking straight at me when she spoke those words. It was just so matter-of-fact. Abusive husband. Just two words and so much more of her experience, her struggle and her strength had been revealed.
What prompted her to share that information with me? We had established some rapport, but beyond that I think that it was being at Mayyim Hayyim, that allowed her room to tell me her story. She was in a safe place. Whatever her experience might have been, she was a survivor, and she was very present to the gift of family and to the preciousness of the event that she was witnessing on such a fine, sunny day in such an open and welcoming space.
I continue to be in awe of the profound extent to which Mayyim Hayyim touches not only the lives of those who immerse, but also those who surround them, and I am grateful to play a role in this process.
Nancy Sargon is an ordained cantor with Masters degrees in Jewish Studies and Social Work. Her work experience includes directing a non-profit organization that provided care to the elderly and the disabled, serving as ritual associate at a local synagogue, leading services and life-cycle events, and teaching b’nei mitzvah. She recently began chaplaincy training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She enjoys studying the Hebrew language, going on nature walks, and drawing. Nancy lives in Newton with her husband, Norm, and their dog Sara, and has two college-age children, Isaac and Sophia. She is an active member of Temple Emanuel of Newton and a long-time member of the Zamir Chorale of Boston.