By Caryn Hanrahan | Guest Column

OP-Mikvah_Caryn Hanrahan

Caryn Hanrahan

I’m getting this question a lot lately as I share my increasing excitement about the new Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah (MACoM). As I talk about the groundbreaking May 17, I can see my friends trying to formulate a respectful question.

“Oh, I didn’t know that you go to the mikvah,” someone will say. This is a reasonable comment because I have been to a mikvah only once. I understand the questions.

What do I know about mikvah?

Well, I am a nurse-midwife, and water for me has always been a powerful symbol of birth and life. The “breaking of the bag of waters” often begins a mother’s labor.

In the midwife community, it is said to be a blessing to be born in the caul. This means the bag of waters does not actually break before the birth. When this happens, the baby is born covered in the membrane or “veil.” It is a very rare event even in natural births.

Some mothers choose to give birth immersed in water. I have always gravitated to water since my earliest days on the Jersey Shore. During my divorce, I found it so healing on my difficult days as a single mother trying to raise two young daughters. Swimming was both exercise and mental therapy during that time.

Flash-forward a few years later, having been blessed to find my beshert, I found myself looking for a way to spirituality separate my old life from my new marriage and family. A get (divorce document) would terminate my first marriage, but I craved a Jewish ritual that would acknowledge the end of my previous marriage and family and mark the beginning of my new one.

Many Jewish brides go to the mikvah before their wedding, but for me the immersion was a personal ritual to mourn the loss of something that was once cherished and to celebrate all the new blessings that were headed my way. I left that immersion feeling lighter, happier and content to begin a new phase of my life.

I believe in the healing power of rituals. I believe in the comfort that they can bring during difficult transitions. I believe in the joy they can bring to mark happy occasions.

Mikvah, as a Jewish ritual, holds the potential to affect and enrich every aspect of Jewish life. MACoM will enable our community to develop new rituals to support spirituality, healing and wellness.

Please join me as we celebrate our groundbreaking Sunday, May 17, at 2 p.m. at 700 Mount Vernon Highway in Sandy Springs (adjacent to Congregation B’nai Torah).

Want to learn more about exploring the mikvah in modern times? Join us at 1 p.m. (just before the groundbreaking) for a unique learning opportunity.

If you cannot make it to our celebration, please consider making a donation. For more information, see our website, www.atlantamikvah.org, and of course like us on Facebook. Then you too can answer the question: What do you know about mikvah?