Challenging Sexist Conversion Practices

“A Tale of a Woman and a Robe” began as a video installation, part of a 2013 exhibition at Tel Aviv’s Artist’s House. It was followed by the publication of an illustrated catalog in Hebrew and English.  There, scholars Rabbanit Dr. Michal Tikochinsky and MK Dr. Aliza Lavie, citing midrash Bereshit Rabbah (VaYeshev 84:4)—“Abraham would convert the men, and Sarah, the women”–proved that, in the past, men of the court had delegated women to certify that a convert immersed as a gentile and emerged as a Jew.  In the film we meet three male rabbis who concede, with varying degrees of empathy, that the current practice humiliates the women who are converting—but, shrugging, they claim they cannot change the system.

We also meet a convert whose eyes brim with tears as she remembers.  Because Jewish law requires the mikvah waters to touch every part of the woman’s body, converts immerse before the female mikvah attendant completely naked.  Then they put on a robe.  But, this time, the men entered the mikvah before the woman had donned her robe, and they just stared.

In June, Jacobs-Yinon, one of a growing coterie of Israeli Orthodox female filmmakers, presented her film at the JCC Manhattan and in a private screening in Washington.  She challenges us to raise our voices and demand that Israel’s chief rabbinate rule that only women certify the ritual immersion of women. 

To preview “A Woman and a Robe,” visit

 For information about Nurit Jacobs-Yinon’s other films, visit