The Colors of Water
Water has no color, and yet it contains the rainbow. Transparent and reflective, water reveals the myriad shades of cloud, sky, and light; the rosy glow of dawn, the orange burst of sunset.
The soul has no color, and yet it imbibes the flavors, melodies, and histories of humanity. Intangible and sacred, the soul is never generic; each one tells its own story and sings its own song.
Yavilah McCoy’s African-American family has, four generations and counting, been on a journey into Jewish living. Along the way, she and her ancestors transformed and enriched the Jewish community in ways that are only starting to be felt on a broader stage.
In The Colors of Water, a theater piece with music, Yavilah recounts her family saga – and sings its beautiful songs – in her own powerful voice. It was her great-grandmother, Naomi, who first felt called by the Hebrew bible and its theology of a personal, unmediated relationship to the Holy One. Naomi passed this connection down to her children, and it changed, grew, and ultimately became a formal commitment to Jewish practice and community.
The story of her family’s struggle to find its rightful place in the Jewish world, and the arc of Yavilah’s own journey, is the substance of this production, which integrates the rich cultures of both the Black and Jewish peoples, and combines her family's gospel singing tradition with classical Jewish liturgy.
The Colors of Water premiered in 2009, as a benefit concert for Mayyim Hayyim. Yavilah agreed to make this extraordinary gift to our organization because of our commitment to inclusion and diversity in everything we do. As she has said, “In African-American spirituals, there is a tradition of singing about ‘someday.’ But you can get pretty tired of singing about ‘someday.’ For the sake of my family, and for my own, it’s important that there be spaces like Mayyim Hayyim where a warm, inclusive embrace is not ‘someday,’ but now.
“When I first walked into the building, it wasn’t immediately clear to me why I felt my shoulders relax. But when I met the staff, felt the light and space around me, and read the comments in the guest book, I realized I had found a place where spirituality and diversity walk hand in hand.” The audience at the first performance of The Colors of Water was inspired, entertained, enlightened, and deeply grateful to have been in the theater that day. Don’t miss your chance to experience Yavilah McCoy’s remarkable voice and her heart-felt performance. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll see the Jewish world through new and wiser eyes.
Performance: October 11, 2010 at 8:00 pm
Talk back with Yavilah: 8:45 pm
Dessert reception: 9:15 pm
Location: Leventhal Sidman JCC, 333 Nahanton Street, Newton MA 02459
Anita Diamant is the Founder and President of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center. She is also the best-selling author of The Red Tent, which will celebrate its 13th anniversary of publication on Friday, Oct. 1.
Visit Blogging the Institute: A Night of Jewish Gospel to see videos of Yavilah McCoy speaking about her family's African-American Jewish heritage and leading Institute for Educators participants in song.
How to cite this page
Diamant, Anita. "The Colors of Water." 29 September 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 18, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/2010-colors-of-water>.