by Rachel Eisen, Director of Annual Giving
Some people think that life is linear, always moving forward in one direction. But I’d like to disagree. In this past year, life hasn’t felt linear at all.
Almost a full year ago, I wrote my first blog post as an intern for Mayyim Hayyim. I wrote about studying the definition of ritual for my master’s thesis, and about how beautifully an immersion at Mayyim Hayyim seemed to fit the essence of what a ritual is—something symbolic and meaningful.
Just a few months ago, for that very thesis, I interviewed students at my university about ritual and learned that several of them have immersed at Mayyim Hayyim. A young woman who first immersed for Rosh Hashanah. A genderqueer person who practices niddah, monthly immersion. Another young woman who grew up without any Jewish education and described immersion as the most meaningful ritual to her—even though she’s only done it once.
When I wrote that first blog post, I was an intern. I worked at Mayyim Hayyim for nine months on a variety of projects, becoming more and more passionate about Mayyim Hayyim’s mission and vision for the world. I took a short break—it’s hard to attend classes full time, write a thesis, and have internship all at the same time, after all!
And now I’ve returned—this time, as Mayyim Hayyim’s new Director of Annual Giving.
Between that first blog post and now, I learned a whole lot more about ritual and even wrote and defended that thesis. I learned that another important aspect of ritual is its repeated nature. So much of what goes on here is about repetition. Of course there are weekly immersions, monthly immersions, and yearly immersions. Even the one-time immersions for healing and in celebration are about participating in Jewish life through a ritual that is sustainable, accessible, and available—over and over again.
My first introduction to Mayyim Hayyim was three years ago. I was working at Brown RISD Hillel in Providence, RI, when one of our board members suggested we work with Mayyim Hayyim to bring a group of college students to learn about reclaiming and reinventing ritual practice. So we did—I brought them, and even having talked extensively on the phone with Mayyim Hayyim staff to prepare for the program, I was awed and amazed at the work being done here.
This year, I recently learned, another group of students from Brown RISD Hillel returned to immerse at Mayyim Hayyim.
It seems life isn’t so linear after all—and that’s perfectly fine with me.
Rachel Eisen is Mayyim Hayyim’s Director of Annual Giving. She is excited to re-join a passionate team of people who work to ensure that you can participate in the ritual of mikveh as symbolically and as repeatedly as you like.