The Experience of reading “MIKVEH”

This important note comes from Guila Franklin Siegel, Director of the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation.  She will speaking at a post-show talk-back on Saturday night, May 22 following the 8 pm performance.

I read the play last night — it is really wonderful (no surprise to me).   I would be happy to speak on a panel, if you would like.  Aside from the issues regarding domestic violence, one of the main points that kept coming to mind was the courage that it took for Shira to pursue the truth even in the face of such strong communal pressure and attempts at coercion.   The fear of seeing one’s “absolute truth” collapse like a house of cards is simply too much for so many men – and women — to bear.  

Like so many women, my feelings toward the mitzvah of mikvah have evolved over time.   I now see it in an incredibly positive light that was inaccessible to me at the young age of 17, when I first visited a local mikvah as a field trip during a class on taharat mishpachah at my Modern Orthodox high school.   When I was reading the play, however, my mind and heart inevitably focused not on the issues surrounding the mitzvah of mikvah itself, but on the broader issues that I have been engaged in professionally over the years — domestic violence prevention programs for teens, efforts to deal with the agunah crisis, advancing women’s leadership roles within the organized Jewish community (both professional and volunteer) . . . .

I am always struck by how challenging, even punishing, it is to strive to be an agent for change in one’s community, and how lonely of an experience it can be for women in that situation.   My passion for my work comes out of my deep desire to see Jewish women from all corners of the community supporting each other, respecting each other’s religious beliefs and practices,  and lifting each other up.  I can’t imagine how any Jewish woman can see Chedva’s bruises or Tehilah’s anguish and not want to be a part of the solution, even if she herself has never stepped foot in a mikvah or experienced abuse or clinical depression herself.   To the extent that women who are infinitely more talented and creative than I am can use their artistic abilities and inspiration to raise consciousness about these issues, I am grateful. 

– Guila