Written by Miriam Anzovin, Administrative Assistant at Mayyim Hayyim
When a new visitor to Mayyim Hayyim walks through the door, they are often surprised (but pleasantly so) to discover that an art gallery resides here, in addition to our mikva’ot and education center. Having art on the walls is an integral characteristic of Mayyim Hayyim that many people, new to the ritual of immersion or to Judaism itself, appreciate. Art, to me, is the universal language. It has the power to bridge vastly different cultures and religions, not to mention the multiplicity of denominations within the Jewish community itself. Art can provide a new context for understanding the Jewish experience. If immersion is the reason for Mayyim Hayyim’s existence, then the artworks hanging in the gallery, on the walls of the reception area, and in the preparation rooms, provide a striking aesthetic dimension to the physical act of submerging oneself in water.
Hiddur Mitzvah is, after all, one of the seven founding principals of Mayyim Hayyim. The term Hiddur Mitzvah refers to the act of “beautifying” a mitzvah— enhancing the experience in a sensory fashion, which in turn enhances the experience spiritually. The mission statement of the Mayyim Hayyim Gallery is to harness artistic expression as yet another way to fulfill the goal of reclaiming and reinventing an ancient ritual.
The gallery presents a spectrum of media, genres, and concepts to the many viewers who peruse the works on the walls, here at Mayyim Hayyim. Having rotating exhibits of paintings, photographs, and sculptures from local and national artists provides a flowing visual commentary on what goes on here. The gallery showcases work that appeals to a variety of tastes. Interested in photography? Be sure to see our upcoming exhibit by photographer Tom Kates. Have a fondness for graphic novels and sequential art? We recently showcased the works of Phoebe Potts and Hilary Price. Many of our past exhibits relate to the possibilities of water as renewal for Jewish life, for example the “Tide Pools” show of photographs by Karin Rosenthal. Other shows provoke thought on current social issues in the wider Jewish world. Last summer, we exhibited works by Irene Fertik documenting the experience of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. As an establishment, the gallery also serves as a threshold to further discussion about what constitutes Jewish art and culture. Fostering an appreciation of the heritage of the Jewish people and providing a forum for discussion on the role of art in Jewish culture, the presence of the gallery informs our approach to ritual, and ritual informs our approach to artistic appreciation. Art is the prism through which we can explore the deepest reaches of our self-perception, our individual identities, history and experiences— a fact that makes the gallery a natural, logical and meaningful extension of the transitional moments that take place here every day.
Miriam Anzovin, Administrative Assistant, joined Mayyim Hayyim in August 2010. She works closely with all the members of the Mayyim Hayyim staff and is involved in a wide variety of tasks within the organization, including scheduling immersions, coordinating volunteer Mikveh Guides and assisting with exhibits in the Mayyim Hayyim Gallery. In addition to her work at Mayyim Hayyim, Miriam is a new media fine artist producing neo-Judaica, abstract and surrealist art. She holds a B.A. in Judaic Studies from UMass Amherst and attended Butera School of Art from 2008-2009. Click here to view Miriam’s artwork.