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Press Release: Rituals and Resilience Event

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Press Release

Tuesday 19th January 2021

Launch event for new community mikveh hears how the Jewish community needs a dedicated space to promote mental health and wellbeing

The full event can be viewed at

Contact: Rachel Heilbron, Wellspring Project Director

The British Jewish community needs a Jewish public communal space where mental health is given rightful prominence, an audience heard at the virtual launch of the Wellspring Project UK (previously Mikveh Project UK). More than 250 people from across the world joined the event online last night (Monday 18 January 2021) to hear from prominent activists in the field of mental health and community mikveh about the power of the traditional ritual of immersion and its use in promoting wellbeing and healing.

Rabbi Miriam Berger, principal Rabbi of Finchley Reform Synagogue, chaired the event and spoke about her intensely personal experience of the mikveh as a space of healing and transition following infertility. After visiting the Mayyim Hayyim community mikveh in the US she found contentment, and a commitment to providing a similar space for people in the UK.

Rabbi Berger believes a halakhic mikveh open to all people for traditional and non-traditional uses is especially important in promoting good mental health. “When we’re dealing with mental health it needs to be seen as somewhere that is a public space - that it’s not a taboo, but also somewhere you can be completely private … to do something private in a public space. A place that welcomes you in but isn’t judging you.”

The event featured Anita Diamant author of ‘The Red Tent’ and founding president of Mayyim Hayyim - Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center near Boston, Massachusetts. She talked about how the mikveh has always been used for non-traditional uses, whether by people visiting before surgery or in the last trimester of pregnancy. During the pandemic, when Mayyim Hayyim was able to open, Diamant said “people sought out the mikveh to help them with their emotional and physical healing, as well as letting go of pain and welcoming the next step in their lives”. The Jewish ritual of immersion is increasingly being used to mark new beginnings and transitions of all kinds, something Diamant says is embedded in the Jewish tradition which starts anew every day, week, month and year, “We’re always beginning again and sanctifying those moments.”

The speakers also discussed the physical act of mikveh as a tool for good mental health. Diamant highlighted the range of people who use the mikveh “Whether they are grooms or people joining the Jewish community, to those who are retiring or facing illness, to people who need physical help and can’t walk down the stairs and need to be carried into the water. It changes people’s lives and it enriches them.”

Award winning mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin MBE, also contributed to the evening with a pre-recorded interview in which he spoke movingly about his own struggles and the power of rituals, whether large or small, to help you focus on self-care and remind you to be kind to yourself. He talked about the short-comings of the existing mental health care system, its one size fits all approach with very little choice or variety of treatments. “Somewhere like Wellspring gives someone the opportunity to really be, to not feel rushed or pressured to get to a certain point… It’s so rare in this world for people to have the opportunity to really be and be held by people and the space around them… to find that place of real deep care and love and it’s so needed.”

Rabba Dina Brawer, founder of JOFA UK and the UK’s first female orthodox Rabbi, also joined from her home in the US. From her experience as a Jewish educator, she spoke about the importance of making mikveh more physically accessible and culturally approachable, the power of water to transform us and, especially during covid, the need for each of us to be able to begin again, “At this particular [point] of the pandemic, when so much of our life feels static, we all crave that opportunity to look forward to a period of transformation and growth.”

The Wellspring Project UK aims to build a centre for wellbeing in Barnet, North London with immersion pools for the traditional ritual of mikveh (full body immersion), rooms for talking and complementary therapies and groups. It will be a welcoming, inclusive and non-judgmental space for people of all age, gender, faith or non-religious beliefs. The centre will promote the use of Jewish rituals such as immersion as part of our wellbeing, good mental health and recovery.

The Wellspring Project UK is supporting The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat this weekend by hosting live music focused on wellbeing on its social media pages at 4pm each day this week. Participants were also encouraged to sign up on its website to ‘be a drop in the Wellspring’ to help support the project.

The full event can be viewed at

The full event can be viewed at

Contact: Rachel Heilbron, Wellspring Project Director