by Lisa Berman, Mikveh & Education Director
Anita Diamant says of our mikveh guides, “You are the face of Mayyim Hayyim.” It’s true. A mikveh guide literally opens the door and welcomes each guest, supporting their visit in whatever way is needed, wanted, imagined, spoken of or hinted at.
This winter we have welcomed and are training 16 new mikveh guides-to-be. They will complete their formal learning in a few weeks, don their very official name tags, and begin on-the-job training with our amazing cadre of current mikveh guides.
Who are these new mikveh guides, soon to be opening our front door with a smile? They are men and women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s; they are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, unaffiliated, traditional egalitarian. They are Jews by choice and Jews by birth.
They are… a landscape gardener; a birth doula for young mothers; a big sister for Jewish big brother/big sister; a peer dialogue facilitator and counselor for a crisis intervention hot line; the founder of a Rosh Hodesh group that was explicitly inclusive of women, transgender, and genderqueer people; a family nurse practitioner providing accompaniment to families through the life cycle; an advocate/crisis counselor for survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence; a professional with careers spanning nursing, health care policy and marketing; a high school librarian; a retired IT professional; and a brilliant and inquisitive posse of rabbinical students.
In anticipation of this opportunity to become a mikveh guide, they said:
“My experiences at Mayyim Hayyim have had an almost magical quality, where I’ve felt profoundly connected to God in a way I haven’t been able to achieve through other moments of ritual or prayer. I would love to help foster that for others. I am also deeply committed to Mayyim Hayyim’s desire to make the mikveh a place that is accessible to and welcoming of all Jews. Additionally, I feel it is of utmost importance that women have a strong voice and play an active role in the community’s mikveh.
“I have experienced the lack of accessibility to mikveh and I know there are so many who experience that problem. I feel strongly that it is important for many different people in many different contexts to be able to access this tradition – to renew, to keep time, to transition from one state to the next. Since I personally feel so deeply connected to this practice, it would be such an honor and blessing for me to hold space for others engaging in this ancient ritual.”
“I am committed to blending my professional experience working with people who have experienced trauma and victimization with the healing powers of Jewish rituals. [I want to be involved in] educating people about the most embodied practice we have in our tradition; it is extremely important in a time when Jews are searching for places to bring their whole selves.”
“My Jewish journey has helped me appreciate the complexities of religious practice and kept me open to and supportive of the diverse ways in which individuals choose to practice within the Jewish community.”
We are truly blessed to bring these warm, caring, and thoughtful individuals into the fold at Mayyim Hayyim and can’t wait to see each one of them sitting at the front desk and shepherding our guests through this ancient, powerful ritual.
Lisa Berman is the Mikveh and Education Director at Mayyim Hayyim, ensuring that all immersions are facilitated with dignity, respect and modesty, and supervising the Paula Brody & Family Education Center.