‘The Mikveh Monologues’ makes its San Diego debut
LA JOLLA–The Mikveh Monologues, written by Anita Diamant and Janet Buchwald, directed by D. Candis Paule, is a play composed of nine staged readings focusing on various experiences of going to a mikveh. The play was underwritten by Laura Galinson and Jane Fantel.
The purpose of the event at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center was to inform the audience of the plans for building a mikveh in San Diego, California, which will be at the base of Cowles Mountain near Tifereth Israel Synagogue. The San Diego mikveh will be modeled after the Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh in Newton, Massachusetts.
The play served to raise awareness of these plans and promote funding by showing why building a community mikveh is a worthy cause.
The Mikveh Monologues educates the Jewish community about the purpose of a mikveh and when it is used. A mikveh can be used by men and women, young and old. There are specific prayers and rituals depending upon the reason for the ceremonial immersion.
It is common among the world religions to treat water as holy. This is not surprising when one considers that the human body is primarily composed of water–anywhere from 55% to 78%. In ancient times, a mikveh had such great importance that in order to finance the building of a community mikveh, a synagogue was permitted to be sold.
The event began with a showing of the film, Immersed, directed by Mark Lyon. This film portrayed women sharing their mikveh experiences. Although Anita Diamant could not be at the event in San Diego, she appeared in the film and spoke of the importance of a community mikveh.
After the showing of the film, volunteers distributed potpourri to the last person in each row for a Havdalah ceremony. We wrapped our arms around one another warmly as we sang Jewish songs, accompanied by Jewish musicians and cantorial soloists.
The musicians included: Alan Alpert, Arlene Bernstein, Myrna Cohen, Bracha Crayk, Lori Wilinsky Frank, Heidi Gantwerk, Beth Faber-Jacobs, Lori Kornit, Andy Mayer, Craig Parks, Jeff Wayne, and Myla Wingard.
Rabbi Marty Lawson of Temple Emanu-El, represented the San Diego Rabbinical Association. He made opening remarks about working toward building a community mikveh in San Diego. He mentioned the required mikveh immersion for those becoming a Jew by Choice. As he had not been immersed in a mikveh he decided it was time to try it and “schlepped up to Los Angeles to the nearest mikveh.” He said it was a life changing event for him.
Dr. Lisa Braun-Glazer, the catalyst for the Waters of Eden, came to the stage. With tears in her eyes and a heart full of gratitude, she called her Board of Directors to share the glory as they recited a Shehechianu blessing for the momentous occasion.
Glazer proudly announced that donations in the amount of $1,500, 000 had already been pledged to the $5,000,000 project. Tifereth Israel offered to lease the land to Waters of Eden, San Diego Community Mikveh and Education Center for merely one dollar per year.
The evening progressed as The Mikveh Monologues portrayed nine different characters who all came to the mikveh for different reasons. Mara Jacobs played the part of a Bat Mitzvah girl preparing to become a daughter of the Commandment.
Matt Thompson portrayed a young father coming to the mikveh with his son before Sabbath. It was a weekly ritual he and his son enjoyed and cherished. Thompson’s gestures of spinning his son in the water evoked emotion because his role seemed believable.
Sarah Price-Keating represented a young bride from Generation X. The bride talked about “getting it over with and doing lunch with her friends.” Instead, she asked the mikveh guide to bring her mother. The bride cried and thanked her mother for all she had done.
Jill Drexler played the role of mikveh guide. She talked about an intensive interview and background check. Although the character said the clients thank her, she is the one who feels enormous gratitude to the clients for allowing her to be part of their lives in this way.
Barbara Cole played the role of a breast cancer survivor. The character went in to the mikveh as a symbol of her cancer treatments ending. She was ready to start a new chapter of her life with her head held high.
The other actors included Charlie Rideau in a piece about saying farewell. Deanna Driscoll acted in a scene about adoptions. Phil Johnson was in a skit about replacing the mikveh body-care products with those from his hair salon. Wendy Waddell acted in a scene about Niddah-entering the mikveh after her menstrual cycle before resuming sexual relations with her husband. The actors showed professionalism and their stage credits were impressive.
After hearing the readings, I realized going into the mikveh symbolized letting go of the past and immersing oneself in a new life chapter with holiness. Immersing oneself is a way to connect to God.
The words “immerse, emerge, renew” painted on the Waters of Eden bookmarks left a calming impression at the Mikveh Monologues event. These words explain the benefits of building a community mikveh.
Resilliency, renewal and hope came to mind when I reflected upon the Mikveh Monologues and what they expressed. My hope is that all who would like to participate in the mikveh experience will be able to do so regardless of their financial circumstances.
I am reminded of the Father of Zionism, Theodore Herzel, who said: “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Waters of Eden Community Mikveh is expected to open in late 2012 or early 2013. It will be the first community mikveh built in San Diego in the 21st century. For more information see WatersOfEdenSD.org or call (619)-206-3959
Appel-Lennon is a freelance writer based in San Diego. She may be reached at email@example.com