The Mikvah Project

Mikvah: An ancient ritual bath in which Jewish women traditionally immerse after their monthly cycle and before the resumption of sexual relations. Also used for conversion.

Mikvah has been passed down from mother to daughter as a thoroughly private, even secret ritual. Today it is a many-faceted silent celebration of womanhood observed by a broad spectrum of Jewish women.

The Mikvah Project is a touring exhibit of photographs and interviews documenting the resurgence of the Jewish rite of immersion in a ritual bath. The ritual of immersion has been observed continuously for over three thousand years. Mikvah immersion as a religious obligation has long been held as sacred that some have risked imprisonment or death to maintain the practice.

The Mikvah Project documents a return to this long-hidden ritual and the powerful discoveries that come along with that process. Mikvah becomes a way to explore the subjects' lives.


"As a child, I remember sneaking into the back room of the synagogue to marvel at the mikvah, a great green tiled tub that was bigger and deeper than me. Later, in my feminist years, I scoffed at the custom, which seemed to perpetuate the myth that menstruating women were "unclean"."

"I became interested in exploring the mikvah at a time when I felt spiritually vulnerable. In my own tradition I found a ritual that offered an opportunity for emotional cleansing and spiritual transformation."

–Janice Rubin, photographer

"I have long held mikvah to be a women's sanctum, a place where a woman alone embraces and immerses in her femininity without comment, a place where her confrontation of self and God is closest to the bone, and then she emerges ready to rejoin her spouse, fresh and sensual and real."

"I have read and lectured about this, and accompanied countless women to the mikvah. Now my search continues as our interviews give voice to women speaking about this ancient rite."

–Leah Lax, writer


The Mikvah Project begins with underwater photographs that exquisitely capture the intimate, sensual, enigmatic nature of this now-modern rite. It continues with a series of emotionally-charged, anonymous portraits of interview subjects that do not reveal faces, but reveal something about their lives. Women interviewed for The Mikvah Project speak about the role mikvah plays for them in a number of universal feminine areas such as struggles with body image, the promiscuity of an era, and dealing with issues such as childbirth, infertility, menopause, illness, trauma, and sexual abuse. The images are paired with key quotes from the interviews.

A selection of photographs first shown at Diverse Works in Houston, Texas as part of the Houston FotoFest 2000 generated significant interest. At a second invitational showing at the University of Texas Medical Branch, the work was introduced in the context of the evolution of body image in America and called a mystical celebration of women. A national tour begins in October of 2001.


"The clarity of the water, the delicate toning of the photographs and the crisp (but unrevealing) definition of the feminine bodies conspire to soothe the eye. Visually, they are evocative and sensual, like Andre Kertesz's nudes, and gentle like Harry Callahan's portraits of his wife, Eleanor. Their content also allows us to see these pictures as emblematic of a certain spirituality. This show is not to be missed."

–Patricia C. Johnson, Art Critic, The Houston Chronicle

"It's like I die – total stillness, darkness, and when I come up, I am different. In that moment of suspension I feel uncomplicated and whole."
"I have this sense that when you disrobe and go into the mikvah you're peeling off all façade, all pretense, there's nothing you can hide, not from yourself and not from God."
The exhibition includes of forty 24"x36" prints, some with text.