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I’ve written before that I don’t go to the mikveh every month.  I’ve only been twice: once before my wedding and once after a miscarriage.  When I went for my wedding, it was a joyous, somewhat raucous event.  I remember laughing a lot.  When I went back a few years later to try to reclaim my body after a miscarriage, I sank under the water, sobbing.  I remember opening my eyes underwater and watching my body float, my knees drawn towards my chest.  A little ball.  I was so lost.  So lost.

I can’t even get through thinking about it now without crying.

We were out running errands on Tuesday when Josh broke the news.  A rabbi in town — not our rabbi — had been arrested on charges of voyeurism.  He was being accused of rigging up a camera in the mikveh.  Not our mikveh, but one that family and friends use.

Danya Ruttenberg said it perfectly in the Forward,

Picture a woman returning to the mikveh for the first time after a miscarriage. She’s swimming in grief, still, maybe. Judaism doesn’t traditionally have a formal ritual to mark the loss of a pregnancy — except the mikveh. Her first immersion after first a time of hope, and then one of what’s all too often an unnamed bereavement is her ritual to mark what’s happened inside her body and her heart, everything she’s feeling and everything that’s different now.

Now picture a woman coming back to the mikveh after her third miscarriage.

I don’t know what percent of the water in the mikveh is actually made up of women’s tears, but I suspect it’s a lot. The mikveh is meant to hold vulnerability.

There has, understandably, been a lot of discussion of the event here in town, and beyond my feelings about the situation itself is the comment — made thus far entirely by men — that it is lashon hara (gossip; literally “evil tongue”) to speak about another person in this manner and we should stop.  Even worse than having a sacred space desecrated is being silenced.

Especially when I think rabbis and congregants need to hear how women feel about the mikveh.  They need to read Danya’s piece and understand how miscarriage affects their congregants.  They need to hear what women say when they feel violated.  We need to talk about this so there can be comfort and guidance.

Eyes have certainly been used in this case and others to violate.  I’d love to have all of our words read so that eyes can contribute to having women heal.

Especially on a day like today, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.


1 SuzannaCatherine { 10.15.14 at 1:45 pm }

I feel so sad for the women who were the victims of this truly despicable crime. Their hearts were already broken and now this indignity. May the love and support of their families and friends aid them in the healing process.

2 a { 10.15.14 at 2:22 pm }

Wow, she did say it perfectly, didn’t she?

I don’t know how it’s possible to discuss the idea of sacred spaces and violation thereof separate from the crime, when it’s the crime that raises the discussion. It IS possible to discuss the crime without discussing the criminal. I hope that your congregation can come to that realization, so that comfort and guidance can come about.

3 Keiko { 10.15.14 at 3:45 pm }

Rabbi Danya is a wise woman. I wish we had heard her at High Holidays at Tufts again this year. And this story about the mikveh voyeur is just… I just don’t even know.

4 Mali { 10.15.14 at 9:25 pm }

This is sad, but it has given birth to at least two beautiful pieces of acknowledgement, of vulnerability, of compassion, and it gives a voice to so many. I do hope that the men read and finally truly see the truth of this.

5 earthandink { 10.15.14 at 9:59 pm }

My thoughts are with everyone affected by this. I wish with all of my heart that no one ever went through anything like this.

6 kate { 10.15.14 at 10:40 pm }

How heartbreaking.

7 chickenpig { 10.16.14 at 8:27 am }

I hope the congregation can find a way to heal. Something like this can tear a community apart.

I share hugs and tears with you.

8 Tiara { 10.16.14 at 12:38 pm }

I am very sorry for the violation your community has endured. I can only imagine the hurt felt by this.

9 Donna { 10.25.14 at 6:26 pm }

Safe spaces for those grieving miscarriage can feel hard enough to find, I can see why the community is hurting so much over this. I’m glad to hear your voice is out there despite the message to remain silent.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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