The Mirror in the Mikveh

Can a Jewish Purity Rite Be Adapted for Teens?

Kurt Hoffman

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Published May 23, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Ellie’s mother, Esther Goldenberg, is so supportive that she is considering using the mikveh herself. The family is very health-conscious, eating a vegan diet and exercising regularly (Ellie is a red belt in karate). But it had never occurred to them that mikveh could be part of a healthy lifestyle. “I really care about my and my daughter’s health and Judaism, and the two are connected in our world. Mikveh can further these goals,” Goldenberg said.

The program is grounded in traditional Jewish texts and spiritual concepts, which were reviewed with its leaders in meetings and training sessions with Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, Adas Israel’s director of lifelong learning, and Rabbi Rachel Gartner, the Jewish chaplain at Georgetown University.

Gartner, who sees a lot of eating disorders and other stress-related health issues among college students, is contemplating introducing the mikveh practice to Georgetown students. “I try to work on helping them understand that what matters more than how they look and present is for them just to be present [in their own bodies], and mikveh can be a tool for this.”

“Bodies of Water” has the financial support of the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation of Greater Washington, a grant-making organization dedicated to creating social change for women and girls, as well as additional support from the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington at Adas Israel, which offers programs and workshops to help deepen people’s spiritual experiences.

Sara Gorfinkel, the former’s director, applauded her organization’s board for understanding how “Bodies of Water” relates to TOWF’s mission, and how mikveh can be a vehicle for creating social change for women and girls. “We are really excited about this model, because it’s really accessible and can be replicated,” Gorfinkel said.

For Emily, the history of the practice inspires her. “These waters have been here for all of time,” she said. “The most special part of mikveh for me is getting in touch with myself as part of Jewish history. And at some point in the future, another girl, going through the same issues I am now, will immerse herself in these same waters.”

Renee Ghert-Zand is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to the Forward.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.