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Cycle: The Mikvah, Water Rites, and Ocean Avenue

According to the Bible, as an act of repentance, Adam bathed in a river flowing from Eden after being banished from the garden. Men who belong to the more conservative Jewish sects still immerse themselves in the mikvah, but the ritual bath is more often associated with women, who (again, in more conservative sects) are expected to bathe after every menstrual period. The association of menstruation with “impurity” hasn’t necessarily gone over all that well in recent years, but in these New Age-y times, lots of ancient rituals are being reclaimed and reinterpreted. The three short videos and films in this program, all directed by women, take the mikvah as their subject, but they don’t take it traditionally. Shari Rothfarb’s Water Rites is based on 27 quotations—corresponding to a 27-day menstrual cycle—that include the comments of lesbians and feminists as well as observant Jews. Na’ama Lewin’s Cycle: The Mikvah (pictured) is a poetic documentary that observes the many social roles contemporary Jewish women play. Rothfarb also directed Ocean Avenue, an allegorical film about motherhood in which an Orthodox Brooklyn woman searches for her missing daughter. After the screenings, the filmmakers will discuss their work with Rabbi Tamara Miller. The program complements the exhibit, “Helne Aylon: My Bridal Chamber,” which opens May 20th. The films screen at 7 p.m. Monday, April 30, at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center’s Goldman Theater, 1529 16th St. NW. $7.50. (202) 777-3247. (Mark Jenkins)