Mikveh: Hebrew, “collection [of water or pool of living water. Immersion in a mikveh is a ritual that signifies a change of status, i.e.: from unmarried to married, from non-Jewish to Jewish, from spiritually unready to ready.
Anita Diamant is the founding president of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and the Paula J. Brody & Education Center in Newton, Massachusetts. A groundbreaking model of an ancient ritual reinvented for the 21st century, Mayyim Hayyim is an international resource for study, celebration, and authentic, creative Jewish spirituality.
Diamant explains that the idea for this re-imagined mivkeh came to her while working on a book about conversion to Judaism and requires immersion in a mikveh as the last ritual step in the process. On a visit to the Boston-area mikveh where conversions were permitted only two hours a week, she says, “I saw a line out the door. In a way, it was inspiring to see men, women, and children waiting, wanting to become Jews. But the mikveh is no place for a queue.
“The mivkeh should be place for reflection and celebration, but there was no time for any of those people to meditate or sing; nowhere for the assembled rabbis to lead each of those new Jews through a thoughtful, personal ritual; and afterward, nothing to do but get back in the car. As if it was no big deal to change your identity, alter your family constellation, and transform the Jewish people forever.
That was the inspiration for a mikveh with time and space for people becoming Jewish and to those marking all kinds of transitions: brides and mourners, those celebrating a happy milestone, such as becoming a grandparent, and those suffering losses, such as miscarriage or mastectomy.
Diamant’s dream became a reality thanks to hard work and support from volunteers and donors in the greater Boston Jewish community. Mayyim Hayyim opened in 2004 and by the end of 2014, it had hosted more than 2,000 conversions and nearly 14,000 immersions over all. Every year, more than 2500 people come to study, tour, and celebrate with family and friends in its education center. Mayyim Hayyim consults to existing mikva’ot and communities interested in creating new mikva’ot.
An example of the creative vitality of American Judaism, Mayyim Hayyim has been featured on National Public Radio, PBS, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, Hadassah Magazine, The Jerusalem Report, and many other media outlets.
To learn more visit the Mayyim Hayyim website.