The universal human relationship with water is revered in many cultures for connection, purification, cleansing, transition & wisdom. During ritual immersions, physical barriers are removed between our body and the water. This series is a moment for attendees to remove mental or spiritual barriers from past experiences and deepen their relationship with Judaism and this ancient tradition. The communities where guides live can continue to support removing barriers as you welcome and celebrate these “mikveh guides as wisdom-holders and educators” attracted to this learning because they are already vibrant participants in their Jewish communities.
Program design development and implementation planning was a big job. For this community that means the world to me, it was important to create a space where every individual could bring the full-fabulousness of their beautiful selves completely into the space and learn from the course, each other, and themselves. It was worth it to read feedback confirming that 100% of participants felt a sense of belonging, 100% would recommend the program to a friend, and 92% learned something new. What I didn’t expect was how much this work for others would also feed my soul. I had the opportunity to create an opening ritual and prayer which feels bigger than the specific moment it was created for. May its words nourish our souls in ritual moments we need to hold us…
May we remember that the waters of Gan Eden still flow through our bodies and the earth,
the four rivers of Pishon, Gihon, Hidekel, and Perat.
May we allow those ancient waters to connect us to our ancestors and our first home,
lands of gold and precious resource, lands of Ethiopia, lands of Assyria.
May we use our knowledge to protect the source and follow the water to life,
with gratitude for the waters that hold us and the heavens that give us breath.
Erica Riddick of Jews of Color Sanctuary will be a featured speaker of the Co-Creating Rituals Panel at the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network virtual 2022 Gathering on May 9 through 10. Rising Tides mission is to inspire, strengthen and support communities that embrace an open, inclusive and welcoming approach to ritual immersion as a way to mark life transitions, believing that providing for the spiritual needs of the entire spectrum of Jewish people will help create a more vibrant, welcoming, and inclusive community for everyone. The gathering is an opportunity for individuals and groups to come together to learn from and grow this movement.
When I was a child, I was always creating. Somewhere, on the way to adulthood, despite going into a creative profession, I left the devising ritual and imbuing meaning to other professionals. While I was taught to think and to question, that was only supposed to go so far before turning to an expert. It sounds strange to say, but I now realize I am the expert of myself and my life and in choosing what moments I want to create ritual and highlight meaning around.
Reading Inventing Jewish Ritual by Vanessa L. Ochs came at the perfect time and helped hone the ritual innovator inside me to more confidently claim ownership over my prayers and new rituals in a subtly different, but deeply profound way. Prayer had always felt meaningful and personal to me, but Ochs’ historical foundation framing of Jewish ritual development created space for me to bring a fuller authentic self to current rituals and helped me to bravely create rituals rooted in Jewish practice for important life moments I want to mark or honor.
I feel there are many lost opportunities to help Jews of Color see themselves through the people of Color in the Torah. One of the foundational reasons I created this forum is to offer a safe space, a sanctuary, for Jews of Color in the Cincinnati and surrounding areas to explore those topics among other Jews of Color craving similar opportunities for chevruta, study and exploration. Our March event topic was Celebrating JOC Ritual and beyond texts pulled from Creating Jewish Ritual, we used one of my favorite texts borrowed from a friend’s article titled Bagels, Lox, and Grits: Defining My Jewish Identity by Yolanda Savage-Narva.
One of the food elements I connect with Rosh Hashanah is black eyed peas, after reading this was a popular African dish to celebrate the Gregorian New Year. This afternoon, I was part of a program that happened in an art studio. I learned a new kiln was being fired for the first time. As as artist who has mourned the loss of pieces which didn’t make it through firing, I immediately offered a simple prayer for a vessel which will bring beauty into the world. Daily minyans and Shabbat are crucial for me, but acknowledging the relevance of art is important to me too. Bringing aspects of myself in that I sometimes feel are pushed aside helps me step into a fullness of myself and my power that is exactly what I believe God wants for me. In the end, the ritual nuances that bring me the most joy are often simple elements. How they find their place is not always easy, but it always feels worth it.