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Gathering the Waters
October 22, 2010
Gathering the Waters

Posted by Marjorie U. Sokoll

When thinking about the ritual of mikveh, immersion in a Jewish ritual bath, there are many images that may come to mind. We might conjure images of mikveot (plural for mikveh) from hundreds of years ago; images of our great, great grandmothers heading to a dark, dank basement mikveh, or we may think of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Paula Brody & Family Education Center in Newton, MA. This beautiful space encourages men, women, and children to reshape this ancient Jewish ritual in ways that bring transformation and meaning to our lives.

At their recent international conference, “Gathering the Waters,” we were delighted that three JF&CS staff members were invited to present on a variety of topics. In the first workshop a group gathered to explore ways to welcome and support those who are often still left on the margins, such as the GLBTQ community and those with disabilities. The participants examined various scenarios that might present challenges to mikveh guides and offered strategies for breaking down barriers and creating safe, accessible, and welcoming opportunities for everyone. The discussion was led by Sandy Slavet of JF&CS, Andrea Jacobs, and Lee Butler .

In the second workshop, Julie Youdovin, outreach and program coordinator of Journey to Safety, the domestic abuse program of JF&CS, participated in a workshop with Carol Schnitzler and Shera Dubitsky. This panel also discussed the importance of training mikveh guides to be sensitive to individual situations – with a focus in this case on women living with breast cancer and on domestic abuse survivors – as well as proposing relevant policies and procedures for mikveot to consider adopting, including the creation of strong partnerships with cancer support and domestic abuse service providers in home communities.

In the third workshop, “A Place to Cry: Honoring Times of Sadness at the Mikveh,” I was honored to participate with Janet Yassen, Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein, and Rabbi Naomi Levy. Rabbi Levy is the acclaimed author of To Begin Again, Talking to God, and Hope Will Find You. In addition to learning about Jewish healing wisdom and psychological insights related to trauma, participants also witnessed a “Healing from Abuse” mikveh ceremony and were encouraged by Rabbi Levy to write and give voice to their own personal prayers to God.

Marjorie U. Sokoll, MEd., Director of Jewish Life and Healing, is the founder and director of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections, which helps ensure that people feel a sense of connection when facing the challenges of illness, loss, or isolation by offering spiritual and communal supports to provide hope, comfort, and wholeness guided by Jewish tradition. “It is not good for people to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)

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