MACoM, the Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah, which provides a sacred space for Jews to ritually immerse themselves, welcomed their 2023 slate of officers on June 8.
Mingling at Congregation B’nai Torah, adjacent to their Mt. Vernon location in Sandy Springs, MACoM supporters were glad to be back in person to share their experiences of the immersion tradition during and after COVID — including some not so traditional applications.
Purification through ritual immersion, which dates back at least to the 1st century BCE, remains central to Orthodox community life. More recently, it has expanded in scope to include a plethora of modern uses. MACoM is the only Atlanta mikveh that is open to all regardless of affiliation.
Outgoing president Michele Garber opened the presentation with her personal experiences using a mikveh, first in Charlotte and Washington, D.C., before coming to Atlanta.
“Let me assure you that our Atlanta Mikveh is by far the nicest,” Garber said. She credited Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent” with popularizing the more modern and inclusive occasions for ritual immersion, including completing chemotherapy, coming out of a divorce, in preparation for a wedding and more.
Garber, who recalled using a mikveh while experiencing infertility, said that her most meaningful immersion occurred when she was faced with an empty nest after the departure of her college-bound children. She recognized Executive Director Jocelyn Schorvitz for stepping up to the plate during COVID to assume all mikveh guide duties in addition to her regular ones. She also recognized MACoM’s original guide, Adrienne Boyer, who will be continuing as vice president into next year.
Rabbi Joshua Heller delivered the d’var Torah, citing Parshat Naso, which, he said, contains 72 seemingly repetitive verses detailing the offerings made to the Tabernacle by leaders of the 12 tribes. “Why the need for the repetition of the same gifts?” he asked rhetorically.
These repetitions, the rabbi said, were analogous to “repetitive” immersions in the mikveh, which “each individual experiences differently — as a gift of spirituality and connection.”
Three female clergy members were recognized for their service: Rabbi Lauren Lapidus, who headed the clergy advisory group — to be succeeded by Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez — and Rabba Amanda Flaks, an incoming board member.
Although she’s been the executive director for three years now, this is the first time the entire group has met in person, Schorvitz said. During the pandemic, she oversaw some 200 immersions — some on an emergency basis, such as the same-sex Israeli couple with surrogate twins who needed to complete the conversion process before getting on a plane.
Since opening seven years ago, she said, “MACoM has done 1,800 immersions, 658 of which were conversions.”
Schorvitz also reported a $10,000 grant from JWFLA to support women as caregivers. She recognized Beth Tieman Feldstein, who has served as nominating chair, as a guide and — with Tracie Bernstein — as a guide teacher. Garber presented Schorvitz with an octopus planter in honor of her many “arms” of service, such as fundraising, taxes, technology and marketing.
Incoming President Edye Nechmad said she got “chills hearing so many emotional stories about conversion.” Her first experience with a mikveh took place some 20 years ago, in Israel, prior to her marriage. She pledged her willingness to face the challenges that come with leading the organization.
“I’m terrified of fundraising, but I will channel my grandmother and flip that switch,” she said. “Hard work is OK!” A speech and language pathologist, Nechmad also touted her experience as a Girl Scout leader for many years.
“I feel the weight of the responsibility,” she added. “We will strive to be impactful and important.”
Garber echoed that ambition. “We must go from surviving to thriving,” she said. “Our board represents 11 different synagogues, and we hope to reach out to those various levels of observance, ethnicity and gender to guide through tears of joy and pain.”
Artist Sharon Feldstein crafted a butterfly-themed painting, “Transitions,” specifically for a raffle to benefit MACoM. The lucky prize went to a mother-of-the-bride who was visiting from out of state.
Additional MACoM officers:
Tracie Bernstein: Secretary
Todd Beresin: Treasurer
Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez: Clergy Advisory Chair
David Ellin: General Board Member (GBM)
Rabba Amanda Flaks: GBM
Rabbi Josh Heller: GBM
Emily Kaiman: GBM
Alexandra Newman-Kofinas: GBM
Mark Silver: GBM
Cliff Trammel: GBM
Alice Wertheim: GBM
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah
- Congregation B'nai Torah
- Purification through ritual immersion
- Michele Garber
- The Red Tent
- D’var Torah
- Rabbi Joshua Heller
- Parshat Naso
- Rabbi Lauren Lapidus
- Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez
- Rabba Amanda Flaks
- Beth Tieman Feldstein
- Tracie Bernstein
- Edye Nechmad
- Sharon Feldstein