Wisdom of the Mikvah

Growing up in Seattle Naomi Malka attended Hebrew School and Hebrew High, but she doesn’t recall anyone mentioning the mikvah.

“I knew Judaism said something about marital sex and how the mikvah connected with that – I thought it sounded like a cool secret ritual,” says Naomi of her reaction to hearing about the mikvah at a Chabad camp in the Catskills during college.

She’s learned a lot since then, and she wants to ensure other Jewish girls and women know about “the wisdom of the mikvah.”

As part of that quest, she will be in Portland May 4 as the keynote speaker at the annual Women’s Day of Jewish Learning. Held at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center from 1 to 4:30 pm, the program will also include text study and a panel discussion of personal mikvah experiences, followed by an optional tour of Mikvah Shoshana.

“The wisdom of the mikvah is our bodies are holy no matter how they look,” says Naomi.

“We live in a culture that puts a lot of emphasis on the way we look,” she says. “All women and girls need to hear Judaism has something to say about our bodies’ inherent holiness. The mikvah gives us the opportunity to experience that. … Our body in and of itself is holy and is our agent to do good in the world.”

She has shared her thoughts on the mikvah in many ways. She is a frequent lecturer and writer on the subject of mikvah. In spring 2010 Naomi served as the ritual consultant for DCJCC Theater J’s production of the Israeli play “Mikveh.” She is the founder of Tevila b’Teva: immersion in nature, a program that introduces outdoor immersion to Jewish summer camps.

Since 2006 Naomi has been the director of the Adas Israel Community Mikvah in Washington, D.C. She trained as a mikvah guide at Mayyim Hayyim in Newton, MA. As the mikvah director Naomi created “Bodies of Water,” a program for Jewish women and girls ages 10 and up to learn about mikvah as a tool for positive body image and healthy decision making from a Jewish perspective.

Following Naomi’s introduction to the mikvah, all attendees will hear a panel discussion featuring a diverse group of five Portland women discussing their personal mikvah experiences and traditions.

After a short break, attendees will chose from one of three workshops:

• Mikvah Basics: Making Ancient Wisdom Yours: Rabbi Ariel Stone of Congregation Shir Tikvah.

• To Whom Do Our Bodies Belong? Rabbi Abby Cohen, director of spiritual life at Cedar Sinai Park.

• A Quick History of Mikva’ot from Antiquity to the Present: Laura Arnold Leibman, Ph.D., Reed College professor of English and humanities.

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