Written by Aliza Kline
In just a little over a week my family and I will embark on a big adventure – a 10-month sabbatical in Israel. This will be the year that we look back on; the myth that shapes our family’s story. I will return next summer to a strong and healthy Mayyim Hayyim thanks to our talented staff, dedicated volunteers and people like you who support our sacred work.
It feels big – I know that 10 months in the scheme of my (close to) 40 years is a modest amount of time – but for a 7, 5, and especially 2 year old it’s life-altering. Our girls, Ela, Gila, and Nomi have expressed excitement, nervousness and anticipation for all of the chocolate treats I’ve promised that flow in the land of milk and honey.
Of course, they don’t fully realize what it will be like in a new, Hebrew speaking environment away from the familiar. I’ve been warned to expect a potentially rocky start.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in Israel before: a year in college, a year as a young professional and a number of shorter visits for work or play. But never with a family of five. We have lots of questions.
The preparation began about nine months ago; it takes a while to prepare a family and to prepare an organization for a shift like this. I think it’s no coincidence that the time of gestation mirrors this time of planning. Though if we continue the metaphor, I am not sure who or what exactly is giving birth to whom or what.
Mayyim Hayyim has grown along with my family. Sometimes it’s hard for me to separate the two. Ela, my oldest, was born just weeks before Mayyim Hayyim opened its doors. I was on family leave while our pioneer staff and dedicated volunteer mikveh guides warmly greeted our first visitors. This makes it easy to remember both the age of my daughter and the date that Mayyim Hayyim opened in 2004 (May 14).
It also means that preparing for this sabbatical has been personally and professionally intense. I am living in liminal time – not quite here, not quite there. Just like that brief, powerful sense of being suspended in the water during an immersion, after submerging but before sinking to the bottom of the mikveh.
Perhaps this is why I am coming with my family to Mayyim Hayyim for an immersion to mark this transition. So far my immersions have been personal, singular, but this trip is a family one and it marks important changes for my home and work life. The ceremony brings it all together, transitioning us from preparation to departure – from pregnancy to birth.
Aliza Kline, Founding Executive Director, has led Mayyim Hayyim from its initial stages, overseeing fund raising, publicity, design, construction, staffing, recruiting volunteers, and board development. In May, 2009, Aliza was awarded an AVI CHAI Fellowship (best described as the “Jewish MacArthur Genius Grant) in recognition of her accomplishments, creativity and commitment to the Jewish people.