by Leah Hart Tennen
It was a tough decision to leave my role of Mikveh Center Director at Mayyim Hayyim, one I struggled with for quite a while. I loved the organization; I loved my co-workers; I LOVED my volunteer Mikveh Guides…I still love the organization, my former co-workers (and current friends) and LOVE my fellow volunteer Mikveh Guides. It’s nice to know that those relationships won’t change that much.
One of the “hardest” parts of leaving was trying to figure out how to signify my transition from Mayyim Hayyim staff back to Mayyim Hayyim volunteer. Believe it or not, immersing in the mikveh was not the first thing I thought of, even though it is usually the first thing I suggest to others when wondering how to mark a meaningful event or experience. In one of my last blog posts as Mikveh Center Director, I wrote about wondering what reasons were “good enough” to be worthy of immersing in the sacred water.
A very wise Mikveh Guide asked me if I was going to immerse on my last day. At first I didn’t think I would. What if I didn’t feel differently after my immersion? Wouldn’t the transition feel even more real on the first Monday I didn’t take the Mass Pike to Newton or the first time I came back as a Mikveh Guide? Ultimately, I decided it would be disingenuous to continue suggesting mikveh for transitions if I wasn’t drinking the…um…water myself.
On my last day, I tried desperately to tie up all my loose ends while also trying to import everything from my brain into the brain of the new Mikveh Center Coordinator, Robin Weintraub. I cleaned out and straightened up my desk, took everything out to my car, and made sure things felt finished. I wanted my immersion to be the very last thing I did. I wanted to prepare, immerse, and then walk out in a different role than when I entered. I asked my very wise Mikveh Guide if she would be my “mikveh lady”. I filled out my paperwork, ensuring that all of my information was correct (it wasn’t…I had recently moved), made my contribution and browsed the ceremonies. I ended up with “Challenging Life Transition” and “Joyous Life Transition”, although I didn’t quite feel like either of those words were exactly right. I was thoughtful during my preparation, but really took my time to reflect upon the moment while in the water. I thought about some of my favorite moments: training the “Mikveh Dudes” (Cohort 8–9 new male Guides), meeting Anita for the first time (like that ever gets old!), mourning and celebrating with volunteers, dancing at the amazing events, and the tremendous privilege of being a part of so many beautiful, transitional moments at the mikveh.
The water in the mikveh is warm, comforting, and offers a safe and peaceful place to reflect on the past, present, and the unknown future. My first experience at Mayyim Hayyim was immersing before my wedding; how appropriate that my last moment (as a staff member) at Mayyim Hayyim was the same.
Leah Hart Tennen is a clinical social worker, trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.