Lisa Berman, Mikveh and Education Director
There is something inherently off-putting about saying you’re going to make a movie at a mikveh. Isn’t a mikveh a place where privacy is paramount? Where photography and exposure should not coexist? Yes, of course. So then why last month would a visit to Mayyim Hayyim have found it strewn with cables, a camera crew and boom mikes? Because we have a story that needs telling – and showing – with modesty and dignity fully intact.
The story is about the 2500 people who have come to Mayyim Hayyim for their conversion to Judaism – and about one man who came last month. It’s about Mayyim Hayyim learning to make the very most of a convert’s time here – to expand the ritual opportunities, to give the warmest of welcomes to other-than-Jewish family members, to allow the “wet hair moment” after an immersion to shine as bright as the new Jew’s smile.
It’s about how a person’s journey to the mikveh can be a path rich with learning, community, connections, experiences, family, clergy, rituals, and holidays. It’s about the relationship between a seeker and a guide – the rabbi or cantor who shepherds someone along the path, to the water’s edge. And the story is about the experience – the havaya – that the convert has, from the top of the steps and the edge of the water, into the embrace of the waters and out again. It’s about the Mikveh Guide who shares and supports throughout, but especially at that most intimate and liminal moment when a person transitions — officially, physically, emotionally, spiritually, wholly – to being a Jew.
We are blessed in this Boston area community with literally hundreds of clergy. Over the 12 years since we opened, they have, each in their own way, adapted their rituals and their minhagim (customs) to take advantage of the opportunity to expand and enhance the point in time that is a convert’s mikveh experience. None better than Rabbi Barbara Penzner who we feature in our upcoming film, along with her remarkable new Jew, Forbes Graham.
Next month we look forward to debuting this new film (by Jen Kaplan and Spencer Productions) depicting one of our very favorite of days at Mayyim Hayyim – the day a Jew is born.
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.