Welcoming Waters: Mikveh for Babies is an incredibly affirming video on many levels. First, Jennifer Grossman, the mother of Clara, the infant being converted, is someone we should welcome with open arms into the Jewish community: a woman dedicated to being a Jew, creating a Jewish family life and raising a Jewish child. With her own conversion and her daughter’s conversion, she is “very much looking forward to us being a Jewish family together.”
Second, the Grossman family is so fortunate to have Mayyim Hayyim, a completely friendly, embracing place – including for Jennifer’s non-Jewish family– at which to experience this ritual. They are also fortunate to work with Rabbi Andrew Vogel, whose warmth is evident throughout the film. His concern that Clara’s immersion should be shared by the entire family- Clara’s parents and both sets of grandparents- does not go unnoticed and speaks to his warmth and dedication to Jewish inclusion.
Third, as Rabbi Vogel mentions, many parents think that “the hardest thing is letting go.”For mothers who are open to considering mikveh for their children, one daunting obstacle can be concern about being required to completely let go of the infant for a moment. The film brilliantly shows, in an understated way, how blowing on Clara’s face causes her to reflexively hold her breath while her mother lets go and she is submerged in the water. It shows that it doesn’t have to be that hard to let go.
The film is honest in raising difficult issues around recognition of conversions by different religious communities. While conversion of infants with non-Jewish mothers is not required in the Reform movement, which is the Grossman family’s religious community, it is required in other movements. It is understandable that Mr. Grossman wants his daughter to be recognized by other denominations as much as possible, although I’m not sure how widespread that concern is among interfaith couples generally. I do hope Mr. Grossman won’t experience disappointment later on: sadly, Clara’s conversion under the supervision of a Reform rabbi, even including immersion, will not be recognized as valid by some denominations. I often think that interfaith couples do best to stick with their own religious community and not worry too much about meeting the standards of others.
I would also like to mention that, while Jennifer has chosen to convert, there are many women who do not, but who are just as dedicated as Jennifer to raising Jewish children. These women are the un-sung heroes of the Jewish community – mothers who are not Jewish who schlep their children to Hebrew school, light candles with them on Shabbat, and who are strong, dedicated members of our communities. If you ask them, they, too will say that they are “being a Jewish family,” together with their husbands and children. Jennifer Kaplan, the truly talented filmmaker, has done an excellent job of illuminating the issues and process involved in converting an infant, in less than four minutes. We’re pleased to highlight the film on InterfaithFamily.com’s Conversion Resource Page.