Founder of The Eden Center Naomi Marmon Grumet wrote about her experiences leading to the creation of JWF grantee The Eden Center in Jerusalem.
“Some people are born storytellers. I was born a listener. My ears are my source of power; hearing the pain and frustrations of others awakens my desire to set things right and propels me to action. Listening was what drew me to become a sociologist, and I learned that listening is an art. Listening is what enabled me to do research with thousands of women and couples about their mikveh experience. And hearing other’s stories and learning from them inspired me to create The Eden Center to revitalize the mikveh experience; reclaiming it as a space for spiritual growth, emotional and physical wellness and women’s self-expression.
When I began researching the mikveh and its effects on sexuality among observant couples about twenty years ago, I felt like I was literally breaking down walls that had prevented conversation for centuries. Mikveh discussion, including talk about the intimacy that follows immersion, was taboo. That silence, while protective of this sacred realm, was a giant barrier to change and improvement. The stories that came flooding out revealed tremendous pain and unnecessary suffering; stories of impotence, abuse, infertility, insecurity, physical pain, and loneliness.
I remember speaking to a Chassidic woman with eight children, who described how the mikveh and the laws of taharat hamishpacha helped to protect her from her abusive husband — and how she learned to manipulate her visits to shield herself from his violent outbursts – but that she had never shared that before and certainly had not reached out for help.