They are leading and creating organizations and businesses of all kinds, responding to humanitarian crises, writing novels, educating at all levels, creating works of art, and so much more! In celebration of Pardes’s 50th, we are highlighting 50 standout alumni whose accomplishments exemplify the rich texture of the Pardes community worldwide.
Carrie Bornstein is currently the CEO of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Paula Brody and Family Education Center. With its flagship innovation lab and “test kitchen” in Boston, Mayyim Hayyim is also the catalyst for the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network, currently with 34 member communities representing 7 countries around the world.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PASUK, PASSAGE OR TEXT?
I don’t have a favorite pasuk, but I do have a favorite shoresh that I learned at Pardes: ayin-resh-bet, which is the verb ‘to mix’. Many other words with this shoresh also have to do with mixtures. For example – erev is evening, the mixture of day and night. An eruv is the mixture of public and private space. The words for whirlpool and potpourri also come from this root. In Levi Cooper’s humash class I did a project about the erev rav, the not-really-Israelite-people who chose to travel with us in the desert. To me, this shoresh indicates things are not black and white, they are not always how they seem on first glance, and that there is a great deal to learn through nuance.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY SHABBAT GUEST, WHO WOULD IT BE?
Yotam Ottolenghi, and I would ask him to contribute a few dishes for the meal.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR WORK?
I am incredibly proud of how Mayyim Hayyim is elevating the field of Open Mikveh and making it possible for the full diversity of the Jewish people to mark life transitions in welcoming, accessible, and affirming spaces, all over the world. The mikveh probably has more barriers to entry than any other Jewish ritual and I believe that if we can make the ritual of mikveh inclusive and welcoming, we should be able to make that happen in every Jewish institution there is.
WHAT DOES THE JEWISH WORLD NEED MOST RIGHT NOW?
The Jewish world needs to take stock of its greatest strengths – things like a sense of connection and peoplehood, care and compassion, as well as our inclination towards action and justice – and to be honest about where our deepest needs lie so we can harness those strengths to invest our resources where it’s needed most. Too often, the Jewish community at large focuses on the the center of the bell curve, further marginalizing those on the outsides – who are single, who don’t have children, or who are Jews of Color. We pretend that Jews don’t struggle financially, that we’re not fighting addictions and mental illness, and people with disabilities are “less than.” When we make the invisible visible, those with the greatest need for connection and engagement will find it within reach and the entire Jewish community will thrive.
HOW DOES PARDES CONTINUE TO AFFECT YOU TODAY?
Because of my time at Pardes, I have so much more confidence in my Jewish identity, and my ability to make an impact on the Jewish community. I understand the canon of Jewish texts in a way I never did before, and have a much deeper respect for and understanding of the full diversity of the Jewish people.
In 2017 I also served as a gestational carrier for a Jewish couple overseas. My time at Pardes definitely informed how I approached the experience, and my interest in the Jewish and halakhic component of it all, as well as my decision to keep a blog about the experience, which you can read here.
WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE?
I am proud to share that a majority of Mayyim Hayyim staff are also Pardes alums, including: