Last week at a planning meeting for the Girls Night Out event, I was asked to respond to the question: “Why do you want a mikveh?”
Many in the room shared answers about their personal immersions, family experiences, or just generally liking the idea of the place. When it came my turn, I looked at the woman next to me and said, “I want a mikveh because it is a radical feminist act to have one. It’s more political than you know.”
The woman next to me was Anita Diamant, my mother, and I don’t think she expected that answer. Truth be told I’m not sure I did either.
As I reflected on my statement later that evening I came to some conclusions about why I believe that Mayyim Hayyim and places like it are radical feminist creations. Here are a few of my thoughts:
- Reclaiming a ritual that may seem outdated or archaic, is radical because it is counter-cultural. Instead of rejecting the idea of mikveh immersion because it became something sexist or elitist, Mayyim Hayyim has decided that this ritual can be accessible and beautiful.
- Mayyim Hayyim is radical because it stood on the edge of a cliff and jumped. No one else was doing mikveh in this way before a group of women took a dream and made it reality.
- This institution is never stagnant. It does a lot of things really well, and keeps doing them. It also examines what needs to be done and tries to fill gaps in the Jewish community here in Boston, the country, and the world. The lack of static makes it a radical, feminist act.
- Feminism is, in my approximation, the idea that men and women are equally able to access resources, jobs, opportunities, and safety. Mayyim Hayyim provides all these things to women AND men, and does it in a way that makes everyone feel included. If you come in with little to no knowledge of Judaism—awesome. If you’re a rabbi—fantastic. Male, female, trans, queer, people of color, Jews by choice… the door is open and they’re ready to help you along whatever journey you’re traveling.
While Mayyim Hayyim doesn’t feel political, it is to me. It tells the story of Jewish people reclaiming their traditions and making them work for today. I don’t buy the idea that religion has to look and feel one way in order for us all to be united. Accessibility is still a little radical in our Jewish world, and Mayyim Hayyim was and still is on the forefront of that.
I thought about this as I immersed before Yom Kippur. Thinking of my experience as a subversive political act made the water that much sweeter.
P.S. As a celebration of Anita and all that Mayyim Hayyim is, we are holding one of our fabulous girls night out events, “Roasting and Toasting Anita Diamant” on October 17 at 7:00 pm at Guilt Nightclub in Boston. I hope to see you there!
Emilia Diamant is not in any way related to Anita. Oh wait…that’s her mom. She grew up in the Greater Boston area, and was Mayyim Hayyim’s very first (and best ever) intern as a senior in high school. She is currently the Director of Programming and Initiatives at Prozdor of Hebrew College, where she works to corral teenagers into loving social justice and unicorns as much as she does. She is thrilled to be the Diva of Ceremonies for her mom on October 17th, and will share as much embarrassing information as possible that evening–you’ll have to come in order to get the scoop. Emilia is hilarious also, so even if you don’t know her mom, you’ll have fun with us at Girls Night Out.