Anyone who has spent any amount of time with children knows that they tend to ask a lot of questions. When I’m not working at Mayyim Hayyim, I work as a part time nanny for 4 wonderful and particularly inquisitive girls. Normally, the questions are of a definitive nature such as “what is marmalade?” or “is Michigan a country or a state?” These questions I can answer easily, with little thought or effort on my part.
One day about a month ago, I was challenged with a question that I didn’t quite know how to answer. I was telling one of the girls, Bobbie, about my office at the mikveh, and she looked at me puzzled and asked, “Why do you need a desk? You work at a bath.” In that moment, her genuine confusion about where I worked and what I did was not something new to me, and neither was my inability to answer her question.
Since I started working here in September, I’ve encountered much confusion about both where I work and what I do. When I first started telling people, I would attempt to go through the whole explanation of what a mikveh was, as it turned out most people in my life, regardless of their religion, had no clue. As time went on, I stopped attempting to explain, simply saying that I work at a “Jewish non-profit near Boston.” When I give that answer, no one ever seems to pry for more information about what the organization does.
When I tell people that I’m an administrative assistant at this Jewish non-profit, I’m also often greeted with puzzled looks and questions about what that means. This is another question I’ve never really known how to answer. At first I told my friends that I was “like a secretary.” But again, my language here changed, and I now I now explain it as “general office assistant.”
However, when Bobbie looked at me, waiting for an answer to her question, my usual responses didn’t seem fitting as an explanation. How was I going to explain that what happens here at Mayyim Hayyim is so much more than a “bath.” When people come here to Mayyim Hayyim for an immersion, an educational program, or to accompany a loved one, they experience something here that’s special, and doesn’t happen anywhere else.
I’m still not sure there’s really a concise and easy way to explain what we do here. I can explain the basic logistics of a mikveh and how it works, and what my day-to-day tasks are, but to really understand it, you have to experience it. So, I’ll keep changing what I say, and learning from my experiences here. But, the best way for my friends and family to fully understand where I work, is to offer to give them a tour or schedule an immersion so they can experience it firsthand.
Sarah Gurvis lives in Norwood, MA, with her friend, Marisa, who listens to mikveh and nannying stories everyday. When not at the mikveh or with children, Sarah spends her time baking, crafting, and watching lots of TV.