by DeDe Jacobs-Komisar
Before I started as Development Manager at Mayyim Hayyim last year, I was afraid that the daily demands of fundraising would make it hard to always appreciate the amazing things that happen here every day. I feared that I would begin to see people only in terms of their “capacity,” as we say, and not for their full stories, their journeys that bring them to this place. Thank God, this hasn’t happened, because every day I encounter Mayyim Hayyim’s vision transforming peoples’ lives in powerful, tangible ways.
I’m currently buried in planning and raising funds for our upcoming event on May 18 – Open Waters: Mikveh for Everybody. It’s my first time running a major benefit, and it’s been both rewarding and challenging, putting together endless tiny pieces that will add up to a beautiful whole. Open Waters is focusing on inclusion at Mayyim Hayyim, and in addition to honoring Betty and Peter Shapiro and the authors of Blessings for the Journey: a Jewish Healing Guide for Women with Cancer, we’ll be premiering an original documentary on accessibility at the mikveh, made possible in partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation. Take a look at the preview:
Pretty amazing, right? Imagine for a minute what Mayyim Hayyim’s accessibility means to those who need it. Consider the fact that Mayyim Hayyim is one of about a dozen mikvaot worldwide that are fully accessible. Can you imagine not being able to immerse – at all – because your local mikveh does not accommodate your accessibility needs? At Mayyim Hayyim, access for everyone is essential to our mission. We provide a welcoming and accommodating experience for everyone in the Jewish community, including those with physical and developmental disabilities.
Up to my eyes in budgets and response cards this week, I got a reminder of the impact of this access. I answered a call from a woman whose name I did not recognize. She said that she wanted to make a donation for the upcoming event. I thanked her for her support and grabbed a pen to take down the details, when the voice on the phone broke down into tears. She explained that her son was born with a developmental disability, and for a long time she couldn’t fathom how to imbue him with a sense of Jewish identity, indeed if it was even possible. As he approached his 13th birthday, she despaired of giving her sweet, bright, loving son a bar mitzvah. How could it even be done?
Then she found Mayyim Hayyim, and knew at once that it was the right place to welcome her son into his Jewish adulthood. Working in partnership with our Mikveh and Education Director, Lisa Berman, and one of our volunteer Mikveh Guides who happens to be a rabbi, she is planning a bar mitzvah immersion and celebration here for this coming June. While he does not have the ability to read from the Torah, immersion is a ritual in which he can fully participate, thanks to Mayyim Hayyim. “Mayyim Hayyim showed me that this was possible,” she finished, “I can’t tell you how much this means to us.”
I hung up the phone and looked around at the budgets, response cards, the press release that I had nearly memorized, the lists of donors and participants. Each name was a story, a journey, a moment of transformation this place has made possible. Thanks for the reminder.
DeDe Jacobs-Komisar is Mayyim Hayyim’s Development Manager. She hopes she’ll see you at our event on May 18.