Posted by Julie Youdovin
Not long ago, I heard a friend remind herself to make an appointment at Mayyim Hayyim before the Jewish New Year began. I paused for a moment, imagining people all over Greater Boston and beyond having that same conversation, picking up the phone, and finding a time to immerse at this mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) in the days before Rosh Hashanah.
Thanks to the incredible efforts of founding director Aliza Kline, current director Carrie Bornstein, longtime community activist, trauma specialist, and mikveh guide extraordinaire Janet Yassen, and Mikveh Center Director Leah Hart Tennen, survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault are among those who can turn to Mayyim Hayyim for rituals and mikveh ceremonies that address their needs and feel relevant to their lives.
As Mayyim Hayyim turns a new corner with Carrie so ably at the helm, we at JF&CS Journey to Safety want to take a moment to acknowledge the remarkable contribution that Aliza made to creating such a safe and welcoming space for all Jews, including those women and men struggling with trauma, fear, or memories of past violations of body and spirit. With the strong support of Mayyin Hayyim staff, volunteers, and funders, this kind of compassionate and welcoming approach to mikveh has been a hallmark of this very special place from the first day.
Over the past several years, I have had the true privilege of working with Aliza, Carrie, and Janet through the Embracing Waters Initiative, a program generously funded by the Boston Jewish Community Women’s Fund. In conceptualizing and then securing funds for the Embracing Waters Initiative, Aliza helped to ensure that Mayyim Hayyim would offer a lifeline or anchor to survivors of abuse. In implementing the initiative, Aliza, Carrie, Janet, and Leah have used the guiding principles of safety, dignity, respect, and privacy to create a community of people ready to reach out and support others, whether they need help with an immediate situation or are engaged in the difficult work of healing from past experience.
We thank Aliza for her vision and leadership, and we applaud her dedication to making Mayyim Hayyim a safe and welcoming place for all who come to immerse. As she and her family begin this next chapter of their lives, we also celebrate her legacy, knowing that abuse survivors will continue to find hope and healing in Mayyim Hayyim’s embracing waters.
Julie Youdovin is the Outreach and Program Coordinator of Journey to Safety, the domestic abuse program of Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Before moving to Massachusetts, Julie spent ten years working at SafeHouse Center, a domestic violence program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has also held positions at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center, the American Jewish Committee’s Washington office, and the American Arts Alliance, a nonprofit arts advocacy organization.