The Holy Dunk

October 11, 2010 | By

Many Jewish women visit a mikveh, a ritual bath, at the conclusion of every menstrual cycle. Traditionally, when someone enters the mikveh, she is completely naked–not even wearing nail polish or an earring.

It’s usually a very private ritual. But photographer Janice Rubin and writer Leah Lax believe that it should be part of a public conversation.

In the Mikvah Project (created in 2007)–a website, book, and art exhibition–Rubin and Lax use a series of photographs and interviews to tell stories about women’s lives and the role the mikveh plays in them. One woman who survived two abusive marriages tells how going to a mikveh for her third marriage felt like a “rebirth.” Another sees her regular mikveh visits as a chore that “must be done.” A different woman sees the mikveh as a monthly “restoration of hope” during her nine years of infertility. The stories these women and others tell range from positive to negative, hopeful to tragic–yet each speaks to a shared connection.

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