Nonconforming Conformity

by Sherri Goldman, Administrative and Finance Director

Sherri Goldman

It was my joy a few weeks ago to attend my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah in Atlanta. After an impressive Torah reading, his father and my brother, Rabbi Eric Levy, gave a sermon about nonconforming conformity among the Jewish people. I hadn’t heard of nonconforming conformity before, and I was intrigued as to where he was going with this.  After all, the term seemed to be contradictory. As my brother explained, we Jews all conform to the big picture of being Jewish. We are either born as Jews, or become Jews by choice, but each of us has our own unique way that we are Jewish.

Being Jewish is a super strong unifying tie that binds us to each other and to one God. However, under this conforming great umbrella of Judaism, we are nonconformists. Each of us decides how we are Jewish; from our beliefs, ideas, customs and practices, each person has their own way of being and thinking about Judaism. We are all essentially nonconformists within the conformity of Judaism.

At the Kiddush after the service, I told my brother that I just might use his sermon as the idea for my next post on the Mayyim Hayyim blog. He looked at me quizzically and said “How does this have anything to do with a mikveh?” I laughed and said, “Everyone knows that anything can be related to a mikveh, and this is especially true at Mayyim Hayyim.”

Mayyim Hayyim’s mission is to be a sacred space that is open and accessible to all Jews and those who are becoming Jews; for both traditional and non-traditional, or creatively nonconforming, mikveh uses. At Mayyim Hayyim under the conformity of Judaism, any person who is Jewish can be free to use the mikveh in any way that is meaningful and personally Jewish to them.  It’s what I thought of while I listened to my brother’s sermon on nonconforming conforming Jews.

I thought of a woman who immersed at Mayyim Hayyim as she retired after 35 years of teaching school, a little girl who immersed with her Mom when she graduated from kindergarten, a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, a person immersing after learning of their cancer remission. I thought of people who immerse to connect with their spirituality, or to just pray. Mayyim Hayyim allows us the nonconforming opportunities to celebrate moments of joy, to heal after times of sorrow or illness, or to commemorate transitions and changes. All conforming to, in our uniquely nonconforming way, what it means to be Jewish.

Just a few weeks ago, Rabbi Jeffrey Wildstein from Temple Beth David in Westwood, MA sent this post while he attended the Union of Reform Judaism’s Biennial Conference, “Rabbi Jacobs met recently with the head of Chabad who questioned why the Reform Movement was trying to bring people in and have the Movement grow when it does not care about Kashrut, Shabbat and mitzvot. Rabbi Jacobs responded: We care about all these things – we just care about them in a different way.”

I loved Rabbi Wildstein’s post from the URJ Biennial and found it very meaningful. It highlighted for me the essential quality of nonconforming conforming Judaism. We are all Jews who care about being Jewish, but each in our own way. Thank you to Mayyim Hayyim for providing a sacredly nonconforming conforming space for us all to be Jewish.

Sherri is responsible for managing Mayyim Hayyim’s financial and office operations, including accounts payable and accounts receivable, financial reporting, and building management. Sherri holds an M.B.A. from Suffolk University and is a registered Notary Public in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Sherri also serves as Treasurer of the Medfield Music Association, supporting music education in the Medfield Public Schools.

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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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One Response to Nonconforming Conformity

  1. Diane says:

    Thank you for sharing your brother’s insightful words and then applying it so ably to Mayyim Hayyim.

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